The 20 Greatest Cardinals of All-Time

Only the Yankees and Dodgers have made more postseason appearances than the St. Louis Cardinals, who stake claim to “the best fans in baseball.”

This list, as is the case with all of our Franchise Top 20 articles, is ranked by Wins Above Replacement.


Keith Hernandez


The best defensive metrics we have reveal Hernandez to have been a valuable first baseman. He was a batting champion as a Cardinals, and the team won a World Series with him in the lineup. His exit was acrimonious: manager Whitey Herzog didn’t want his bad habits in the clubhouse.


Red Schoendienst

1945—1956, 1961—1963

If anyone bled Cardinal red it was Schoendienst, who wore a St. Louis uniform for 67 years as a player, coach, and manager. In all, he spent 74 years in uniform, which is most likely a record. Was Schoendienst worthy of a Hall of Fame plaque as a player? For the first 13 years of his career he was an everyday second baseman on good teams and he did some nice things. As a rookie he led the league in stolen bases. One year he led the National League in doubles. He had 200 hits when he was 34 years old, the same season he was traded to the Braves and sparked them to the pennant. He earned MVP votes in six of his 14 full seasons and his teams won three pennants and two World Series titles.


Ray Lankford

1990—2001, 2004

Lankford replaced Willie McGee in center field for the Cardinals late in the 1990 season. He came in at the tail end of the Whitey Ball era. He was replaced by Jim Edmonds about a decade later.

Lankford is the only player to have at least 200 stolen bases and home runs for the Cardinals. He had his best season at age 31 and declined rapidly.


Jim Edmonds


In his eight seasons as a Cardinal, Edmonds averaged 30 home runs, 29 doubles, .395 on-base percentage, and .555 slugging percentage. He won six Gold Gloves for St. Louis.


Johnny Mize


As a young player with the Cardinals, Mize was an incredible hitter. He won a batting title, two home run titles, and led the NL in slugging three straight years. He was traded to the Giants for three players and $50,000 four days after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Mize was 29 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. He missed three full seasons and part of another, but when he returned he was still lethal with a bat. He won two home run titles in his mid-30s with the Giants, including 51 when he was 34 years old in 1947.


Harry Brecheen

1940, 1943—1952

Last name pronounced “BRU-KEEN.” They called Harry “The Hat,” because he liked to tip his cap down on his head, sort of like Andy Pettitte did decades later.

Brecheen was a hard=throwing left-hander. He only won 20 games once, but he was an ace. In the 1946 World Series, Brecheen win both of his starts, and captured another victory in relief.


Joe Medwick

1932—1940, 1947—1948

Once, Chicago Cubs manager Charley Grimm was going over the St. Louis lineup with his starting pitcher prior to a game. When they came to Medwick, the pitcher asked Grimm how he should pitch him. Grimm replied, “Just throw the ball and back up third base.”


Lou Brock


“I didn’t know anything about stealing bases until I was in the major leagues for four years,” Brock said shortly after breaking the single-season stolen base record with his 105th steal in 1974. That checks out. In Brock’s fifth season, his first full year with the Cardinals, he stole 63 bags, 20 more than he’d swiped ever before. He was, almost literally, off to the races, culminating in 118 steals in 1974, and breaking Ty Cobb’s career mark five years later. Brock was cerebral about stealing bases. He was fond of saying that the bases were not 90 feet apart, but rather 13 steps. Brock studied opposing pitchers and usually figured out what they were going to do. The most difficult pitchers, he said, were the ones who were unpredictable. Don Gullett and Jim Barr were two pitchers he singled out as the most difficult to read.


Dizzy Dean

1930, 1932—1937

A quality start is when a pitcher throws at least six innings while surrendering three earned runs or less. We have quality start data back until about 1911. Dizzy Dean has the second-best record in quality starts among the Top 100 pitchers. His record was 115-19 in games in which he tossed a quality start, that’s a .858 winning percentage, just a tick below David Wells.


Yadier Molina


Fewest Stolen Bases Attempted Against, 2005-2020

  1. St. Louis … 1,290
  2. Arizona … 1,743
  3. Minnesota … 1,782
  4. Houston … 1,804
  5. Kansas City … 1,859


Curt Flood


Like Andy Van Slyke, Flood’s first team wanted to convert him into a third baseman. Luckily, the experiment by the Reds didn’t last and Flood was returned to the outfield where he shined as one of the best to ever play his position. He was dealt to the Cardinals in a five-player swap after the 1957 season. St. Louis general manager, Bing Devine called it the best trade he ever made, and he was right. Flood won seven Gold Gloves in center field for the Cardinals and helped lead the team to three pennants and a pair of World Series titles in the 1960s.


Ted Simmons


Simmons had a squat body, a lot like Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra, with tree-trunk legs, meaty calves and a thick midsection. He had heavy eyelids and a long mane of hair that surrounded his strong face. He hit well from both sides of the plate, and in the 1970s he batted .297 and made six All-Star teams. But his 15 homers a year and modest defense behind the plate didn’t measure up to Johnny Bench and Gary Carter, who were haunting the same league at that time. Simmons gained attention not so much for what he did, but for what he couldn’t do. He was slow, he was lumbering behind the plate, his arm was not that strong, and he didn’t hit the longball like the god in Cincinnati.


Adam Wainwright

2005—2010, 2012—2022

In 2022, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina set a record for most starts by a battery (pitcher/catcher duo), with 325. The previous mark was held by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, who did all their work together on the Detroit Tigers. Wainwright and Molina also hold the record for most team wins in games they started, with 218.

Wainwright grew up in southern Georgia, near the Gulf Coast, and he was a big fan of the Atlanta Braves. When he was 10, the Braves appeared in their first World Series. When Adam was 14, they won the Fall Classic for the first time. The young Wainwright’s heroes were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. When he became a pitcher, he later identified mostly with Smoltz, who was the power pitcher of that group.

The Braves drafted Wainwright out of high school in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft, as the 29th overall pick. At 6’7, “Waino” was hard to miss in his first spring training in the Braves organization. But he was also noticed by others, and at the 2003 winter meetings, when Atlanta needed an outfield bat, they dealt Wainwright to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew in a multi-player trade. Drew had one very good season in an Atlanta uniform, but left town as a free agent. Wainwright haunted the Braves for a very long time.

In the 2006 postseason, 24-year old Wainwright pitched nine games out of the bullpen for the Redbirds, allowing zero runs. He pitched in the postseason in nine different seasons for St. Louis, with a 2.83 ERA in 29 games. He belongs in any all-time Cardinals rotation you construct for the franchise.


Enos Slaughter

1938—1942, 1946—1953

In 1939 when he was 23, Enos Slaughter led the National League with 52 doubles, hit .320, and got on base more than 240 times. He finished 19th in MVP voting. In 1940 when he was 24, Slaughter hit .300 again, scored 96 runs, and hit 25 doubles, 13 triples, and 17 home runs. In 1941 Enos was 25 and he got hurt, but he still hit .311, got on base 39 percent of the time, and was an All-Star. In 1942 when he was 26 years old, Slaughter helped lead the Cardinals to their first pennant in eight years. He did it all, hitting .318 with a .412 on-base percentage, while leading the league in total bases, hits, and triples. He finished second to teammate Mort Cooper in MVP voting, but the award should have been his. Starting in 1943, Slaughter missed three full seasons while he was serving in the Army Air Force in World War II. He was discharged on March 1, 1946, only a few weeks before the baseball season was to commence. Slaughter changed from an olive drab uniform to a wool baseball uniform and had a great season, sparking the Cards to another pennant. He played every game, led the league with 130 RBI, and scored 100 runs. He finished third in MVP voting behind teammate Stan Musial and Dixie Walker. He was 30 years old and played as if he’d never missed any time at all. In the World Series that fall, Slaughter had his famous “mad dash,” scoring from first on a double (some reports still insist he scored from first on a single, but that’s false). The point here is: Enos Slaughter was a very good player. He was one of the best outfielders in baseball when he was called for duty in WWII. He missed his age 27-28-29 seasons, the best seasons of most careers. He came back and played very well: for the ten years after he returned from the war, Enos posted an OPS+ of 122 with a 302/388/447 slashline. Then he spent five years serving as a spare outfielder for the Yankees. When he was 42 he posted an OPS+ of 133 and had a .396 on-base percentage for the Yankees in 160 plate appearances. His home run won Game Three of the 1956 World Series against his nemesis, the Dodgers. He won two titles as a Yankee, to go along with the two he got in St. Louis. But we don’t hear many historians or baseball analysts talk about Slaughter as one of the great right fielders. There are a few reasons for that, some of them off-field issues. I’m not going to delve into those things, some of which are true and some of which are not, but I will identify the biggest reason Slaughter is overlooked. Most people aren’t giving him credit for his three prime seasons missed in World War II.


Ken Boyer


Through the first half of his career, Boyer was more valuable than George Brett, Sal Bando, or Adrian Beltre were. Only four third basemen had more Wins Above Replacement in their first ten seasons: Wade Boggs, Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt, and Ron Santo. But after the age of 34, Boyer only played as many as 120 games in a season one time. He wasn’t banged up: he got a late start. Boyer was 24 years old in his rookie season. Had he been able to get to The Show as a teenager like Robinson and Mathews did, he could have piled up even more numbers. Boyer missed two full seasons while in the Army in the Korean War. I don’t ever hear the voters in Cooperstown talk about that, which is a shame, because without that interruption, Ken Boyer would almost certainly have been in the major leagues a few years earlier, and his Hall of Fame credentials (already solid) would be ironclad. He batted .321 with power in four seasons in the minor leagues, itching for a chance to prove himself in the majors.

Beginning at the age of 25, Boyer received MVP votes in eight of nine seasons, culminating in winning the award in 1964 when he helped the Cardinals to their first pennant in 18 seasons.


Ozzie Smith


“The guy at shortstop makes all the difference. He plays hard all the time. There’s nothing greater than Ozzie diving for a ball and throwing someone out.” — Bruce Sutter


Albert Pujols

2001—2011, 2022

Probably the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history. In his first 11 seasons, all with the Cardinals, Albert averaged 155 games, 117 runs, 41 doubles, 40 home runs, 121 RBI, 89 walks, and a slash line of 328/421/617. He won three MVP awards, but probably could have six or seven.


Bob Gibson


“Gibson has by far the liveliest arm in the National League. He’s as tough as they come,” said Dick Allen in 1965. “Gibson makes the left-handers cry and he makes us right-handers cry too. I hit a home run on a curve off him last year and all he gives me now is fastball, fastball, fastball.”


Rogers Hornsby

1915—1926, 1933

Hornsby batted .382 in the 1920s, and from 1921 to 1925, “The Rajah” batted an amazing .402, averaging 41 doubles, 13 triples, and 29 home runs per season. He was not a slap-hitting .300 hitter. All of that damage came in the National League, where Hornsby won two Most Valuable Player awards and seven batting titles in the Roaring Twenties. He led the Cardinals to their first championship in 1926, as a player/manager.


Stan Musial

1941—1944, 1946—1963

“Throw four wide ones and let him walk to first.” — Preacher Roe, on how to pitch to Stan “The Man” Musial

As of 2022, nearly 60 years after he played his last, Musial still ranks second all-time in total bases, behind only Henry Aaron.


This feature list was written by Dan Holmes, founder of Baseball Egg. Dan is author of three books on baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography, The Great Baseball Argument Settling Book, and more. He previously worked as a writer and digital producer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

No reproduction of this content is permitted without permission of the copyright holder. Links and shares are welcome.


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