This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Austin Lamb.
Our countdown of the 100 Greatest St. Louis Cardinals has now reached the top 10! The countdown runs for about another month, and will have you primed for pitchers and catchers reporting in February.
#10 – Jim Bottomley, 1B (1922 – 1932, MVP, HOF)
Let’s get the top 10 rolling with none other than James “Jim” Leroy Bottomley. “Sunny Jim” as he was known due to his cheerful personality, was a first baseman who played for the Cardinals, Reds, and Browns during his 16 year career. Bottomley spent the majority of that time with the Cardinals (11 seasons), and it was with the birds on the bat that he enjoyed his greatest success.
A Pure Hitter
Bottomley never posted a batting average below .296, an on-base percentage below .350, or an OPS below .823 while a member of the Cardinals. He twice led the league in doubles, RBI, extra base hits and total bases. In addition he led the league in games played, hits, triples, and home runs once during his career. Per Fangraphs, Bottomley posted a career WAR of 37.7.
Bottomley slashed .325/.387/.537 with an OPS+ of 136 for his Cardinals career. Three times he hit over .340 and four times he posted an on-base percentage over .400. He never posted an OPS+ below league average with the Cardinals and only once did it fall below 115. In addition to his average and on-base skills, Bottomley could hit for power. He slugged .500 or greater in all but two seasons, with his lowest mark being .473 his final season with the Cardinals.
He was the recipient of the 1928 National League Most Valuable Player Award. That season he led the league in triples (20), home runs (31), RBI (136), extra base hits (93), and total bases (362). All while batting .325/.402/.628 with an adjusted OPS+ of 162.
Bottomley was a member of two World Series champions (1926 and 1931) and as mentioned before won the 1928 National League MVP Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 by the Veterans Committee. His election brought scrutiny on the Veterans Committee by the BBWAA who believed he was elected without merit. Bottomley was inducted in the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014 as part of the inaugural class.
Following his playing career, he continued a career in baseball as both a scout and minor league manager. A heart attack while managing in the Appalachian League forced him to retire from the game. Bottomley passed away from a heart ailment in 1959 at the age of 59.
Whether or not he deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame is a discussion for another day. What is assured is that Jim Bottomley was one of the greatest Cardinal hitters to wear the birds on the bat and deserves his place in our top 10. Watch for the next entry in our countdown as Rusty brings you #9 tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!