This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Adam Butler.
Welcome back to our countdown of the 100 greatest Cardinals. Today we’ll be tackling number’s 55 through 51.
#55 – SCOTT ROLEN, 3B (2002-’07, 4x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger)
This is my personal favorite Cardinal of all time. Scott Rolen was the reason that I always played third base and I always tried to emulate his routine at the plate. He was the definition of an all around player. He brought spectacular defense to the hot corner while also playing his part as one-third of the daunting MV3 of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Rolen himself.
Rolen was brought to St. Louis in a deadline deal during the 2002 season in which the Cardinals sent Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith to the Phillies in exchange for him. He was great offensively for the Cardinals slashing .286/.370/.510 while hitting 111 home runs. His best season came in a ridiculous 2004 campaign in which he finished 4th in the MVP voting while slashing .314/.409/.598 with a 9.0 fWAR.
Rolen’s St. Louis career came to an unfortunate end after the 2007 season. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays after his relationship with Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa went south. John Mozeliak, the Cardinals GM who made the trade, was quoted as saying that he did not want to trade Rolen.
In 2018 Rolen will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame and he is more than deserving of being elected. I normally keep up with hall of fame voting a little bit but once Rolen is on the ballot I imagine I’ll be following it religiously. The seven time all-star and eight time gold glove winner has one heck of a case.
Update: In his first year on the ballot, Rolen appeared on 10% of the Hall-of-Fame ballots. There is some groundswell in the media regarding his worthiness, and he will likely see a large uptick in votes received in 2019 due to 4 players being voted in this season, including comtemporary 3B, Chipper Jones.
#54 – CURT SIMMONS, SP (1960 – ’66)
Curt Simmons got his shot at playing in the big leagues in an interesting way. In 1947 the Philadelphia Phillies played an exhibition game against a team of all-star high school players. Simmons was the pitcher for the high school team and he struck out 11 Phillies. The game would end in a 4-4 tie. Simmons was signed by the Phillies and awarded a $65,000 signing bonus, which was huge at the time. And just like that, Simmons was a professional baseball player.
Simmons had a great career with the Phillies but after a sore arm kept him out for most of the 1959 season and pitching 4 uninspiring games in 1960, he was released. The Cardinals took a chance in signing him and they were handsomely rewarded. He threw 152 innings for St. Louis that season with a 2.66 ERA. His years in St. Louis were some of the best of his career as he had a 3.25 ERA over his seven years with the team. He also started two games in the World Series for the 1964 world champions.
#53 – LANCE LYNN, SP (2011 – ’17, All-Star)
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While Lynn is a player that you are surely familiar with, I think a lot of fans (myself included) often forget about Lynn being a key part of the Cardinals bullpen in their 2011 championship season. The best moment, of course, was when LaRussa mistakenly brought him into game 5 because of a bullpen phone mishap. Can you imagine getting all pumped up to pitch in a World Series game, running out on the mound, then looking up to see Tony LaRussa’s confused face say “Why are you here?”. That is absolutely hilarious to me.
But in all seriousness, Lynn signed with Minnesota in the offseason, bringing his time in St. Louis to a close, but there’s no doubt that he was a great Cardinal.
After pitching out of the bullpen in his 2011 rookie season, Lynn stepped into the rotation the following year and almost immediately took on the workhorse role. He was the perfect middle of the rotation pitcher that you could trust to give you a chance to win every time out while also preserving your bullpen.
Lynn’s 162 game average is 193 innings and he has a 3.38 ERA. While that’s an incredibly valuable pitcher, I’m not entirely sure whether he’ll be remembered in St. Louis for his pitching or for his hilarious postgame interviews. Or shall I say, Lynnterviews?
I’ll see myself out.
#52 – WHITEY KUROWSKI, 3B (1941 – ’49, 4x All-Star)
This four time all-star was a part of all three of the Cardinals World Series championships in the 1940’s. In the 1942 World Series, he even hit a ninth inning, two-run homer to give the Cardinals the lead in game 5 which they went on to win, sealing their World Series title.
When Whitey was a child he fell off of a fence onto a pile of broken glass which cut up his right arm. The result was osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone. The only solution to this was to remove a portion of his ulna, the infected bone. Kurowski was determined to be a baseball player though and didn’t let this disfigurement stop him. He was somehow able to compensate for the missing bone portion in his throwing arm.
Kurowski had a very solid career for the Cardinals. He slashed .286/.366/.455 over the course of his nine year career. In 1949, however, he developed arm and elbow problems that finally ended his playing career. After his playing days were over he served as a minor league manager in the Cardinals organization for over a decade.
#51 – JESSE BURKETT, OF (1899-1901, Batting Title, HOF)
Burkett played his first season for the Cardinals franchise in 1899, the year of the St. Louis Perfectos. He was a crafty sort of player and he actually played during a time before foul balls were counted as strikes. He took pride in fouling off pitches and he often was near the top of the league in walks because of this ability.
“The Crab” as he was known by his peers, only played for the Cardinals for 3 years but they were 3 very impressive years. He had an on-base percentage of .444 and a .939 OPS to go with it. He was known for playing poor defense in the outfield, but with offensive numbers like that, his managers allowed him to keep playing out there.
Thanks for reading!
Be sure to check back in tomorrow when Rusty Groppel brings you #50-#46.