This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Allen Medlock.
If you haven’t, check out the Introductory Article to gain understanding of how these rankings were built. That article can be found by clicking here.
Today we continue our march through the 100 greatest St. Louis Cardinals. In today’s episode, we’ll find relievers and a couple of Hall of Famers, including one name you might be surprised is this low on the list. To the names!
#35. Jason Motte, RP (2008-2014)
Drafted as a catcher in 2003, Jason Motte wouldn’t stay behind the plate for long. His strong arm and accuracy led the Cardinals to convert him to the pitching mound in 2006 and become a key member of the Cardinal bullpen. Motte went to save five games in the 2011 playoffs, recording the final out in Game Seven of the World Series. Leading the league in saves the following year, Motte was inactive in 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
During the year off in 2013, Motte and his wife started the “Strikeout childhood cancer” foundation to bring awareness to children hospitalized with cancer. The Motte family and the Cardinals hosted a cancer awareness night in September of 2013 supplying tickets to patients and families to attend the nights game. Motte continues to host charity events in St.Louis throughout the year.
UPDATE: Motte attempted a Cardinals comeback as a non-roster invitee during Spring Training 2018. He did not make the opening day roster and elected to forego an assignment to AAA Memphis. He has since taken a position in Player Development with the University of Memphis.
#34. Joe Hoerner, RP (1966-1969)
Left-hander Joe Hoerner was the Cardinal closer for four seasons in the mid to late sixties, leading the team in saves each season. Hoerner was a member of two pennant-winning teams and the 1967 world championship team. The celebration in 1967 was almost the end of his career as he was the victim of an exploding champagne bottle during the postgame festivities. Rupturing a tendon in his pitching hand, Hoerner was forced to rehab during the winter. However, he recovered fully and was able to achieve career highs in saves (17), and E.R.A.(1.47) during the 1968 season.
#33 Ozzie Smith, SS (1982-1996; 14x All-Star, 11x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, HOF)
Trust me when I say this, but I was as equally as shocked as you guys when I first saw the list. The formula used wasn’t kind to “The Wizard”, due to his resume being built mostly on defense, and I’m sure many will feel this an understatement. Let’s get the formalities out of the way. We all know the accolades at this point: 15-time All-Star, 13 consecutive Gold Gloves, 1985 NLCS MVP, 1987 Silver Slugger, and first ballot Hall of Famer. Ozzie was considered a “glove-only” shortstop when acquired from San Diego. Working himself into a major offensive piece for the Whitey-Ball era Cardinals, Smith had eight seasons totaling more stolen bases than strikeouts.
We all realize that Ozzie should be a top-five name in any favorable Cardinal list. Smith is the reason many fans my age love the game and still admire the player that became a legend. Ozzie has always been my most beloved player and I can’t see a situation where that will ever change. All the kids in my neighborhood played to be like Ozzie which was nothing short of a trend in the 80’s.
The list may have players miscast or players we may have simply gotten wrong. That is the nature of the beast in this kind of format. While the scales didn’t work into Ozzie’s favor, it’s hard not add bonus points onto the once in a generation shortstop’s scoresheet. The statistical formula has hurt some players position on the list but probably none as severe as Osborne Earl Smith.
#32 Howie Pollet, RP (1941-1950. 3x All-Star, 2x ERA Title)
Add another left-handed pitcher to this part of the list. Howie Pollet was a key bullpen member during the 1942 World Championship team and the number one starter on the 1946 World Series-winning club. He twice led the league in ERA, once in 1943 before a two-year stint in WW2 and another in 1946, the year he returned to baseball. In 1943 Pollet recorded the lowest ERA (1.75) of any left-handed pitcher to ever throw for the Cardinals, a record that still stands today. Pollet played eight years in St.Louis and was a three-time All-Star, winning twenty games in the 1946 and 1949 seasons.
#31 Bruce Sutter, RP (1981-1984. 2x All-Star, 3x NL Saves Leader, HOF)
A Hall of Famer, Bruce Sutter spent four seasons as the relief ace of the Cardinals. Three times he led the league in saves while also winning the 1982 World Series during his time in St. Louis. For a very short time in 1980, the Cardinals had two Hall of Fame closers on their roster. Rollie Fingers and Sutter were on the team before a deal sent Fingers, along with Ted Simmons to Milwaukee, in what was one of many moves made at the winter meetings by General Manager, Whitey Herzog.
Sutter’s four-year save total of 127 ranks fourth behind Jason Isringhausen (210), Lee Smith (160), and Todd Worrell (129). The Cardinals retired Sutter’s number 42 in 2006 and made him an inaugural member in the newly founded Cardinal Hall of Fame in 2014.
Thank you for reading.
We’ll be back tomorrow with #30-#25