This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Rusty Groppel.
Our rankings of the 100 Greatest St. Louis Cardinals rolls on with a group that includes a Hall of Famer and one of baseball’s all-time great relievers. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
#40 – Lee Smith, RP (1990-93, 3x All-Star, 2x Rolaids Relief)
Although Lee Smith spent 8 seasons pitching for the arch-rival Cubs, he had a dominant and memorable 4 year run in St. Louis. At 6 foot 6 inches and 265 pounds, Smith was as imposing as it gets in the 9th inning. During his time with Cardinals, Smith led the league in saves in 1991 and 1992, finishing 2nd and 4th, respectively, in the Cy Young voting. He was an All-Star ever year from ’91 to ’93. Smith posted an ERA of 2.90, a solid K/9 of 8.3, and a WHIP of 1.151 while wearing the Birds on the Bat. His 160 saves as a Cardinal topped the franchise’s all-time list until Jason Isringhausen bested it during the 2006 season. Oddly enough, 2006 was the same year that Trevor Hoffman surpassed Smith’s all-time saves record of 478.
Smith spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot but never reached the 75% threshold he needed to gain induction. He watched contemporaries Bruce Sutter (in 2006, tough year for Smith) and Goose Gossage (2008) be enshrined while he remained on the ballot. The biggest difference between Smith and those pitchers was that they accumulated more innings, whereas Smith was a dominant, 1-inning pitcher for the majority of his career. Fairly or unfairly, Smith became a victim of specialization when it came to Hall of Fame voting. Regardless, his dominant run in St. Louis concreted him in the memory of Cardinals Nation.
#39 – Slim Sallee, SP (1908-16)
Harry Franklin “Slim” Sallee, was a left-handed pitcher for the Cardinals years before they won their first World Series and established themselves as one of baseball’s flagship franchises. Sallee cracks the franchise’s top 10 in several career stats. He tossed 1905.1 innings (7th) with 123 complete games (7th), while picking up 106 wins (9th) and posting a 2.67 ERA (3rd). His 17 shutouts rank 12th in franchise history.
Sallee also is credited with 26 saves during his time in St. Louis. Though it wasn’t an official stat back then, his 6 saves in both 1912 and 1914 would have led the NL.
Even though many fans don’t know of him, Slim is statistically one of the best lefties that ever pitched for the Cardinals.
#38 – Bill White, 1B/OF (1959-65, 69; 5x All-Star, 6x Gold Glove)
Bill White was one of the finest defensive first basemen to play the game. From 1960-66 he won 7 consecutive gold gloves, the first 6 of those with the Cardinals. During his tenure in St. Louis he was a 5 time All-Star and received MVP votes in 3 different seasons, finishing 3rd in 1964. During his Cardinals career he slashed .298/.357/.472 while accumulating 140 HR’s, 209 2B’s, and 1241 hits. He ranks 14th, 20th, and 20th in franchise history in hits, HR’s, and bWAR.
His peak seasons were 1962-64, in which he averaged 197 hits, 31 2B’s, 23 HR’s, 97 runs, and 104 RBI’s per year. White was a key member of the team’s sprint to a World Championship in 1964. He hit for the cycle on August 14, 1960.
Beyond the numbers, White became only the 2nd African-American player in the Carolina league in 1953, an early pioneer as Major League Baseball became a more and more integrated league. White had his own radio program on KMOX while playing with the Cardinals and would go on to be a part of the Yankees broadcast team from 1971-88. He was unanimously elected as the president of the National League in 1989 and held the position until 1994.
#37 – Ed Konetchy, 1B (1907-13)
The “Candy Kid” spent 7 seasons in St. Louis, accumulating 1013 hits, 151 steals, and slashing .286/.362/.409. From 1909 to 1912 he lead the team in hits, also pacing the team in HR’s, RBI’s, and 2B’s in 1911. His 38 doubles that season also led the NL. Ed stole home twice in 1907, had a 20-game hitting streak in 1910, and hit two inside-the-park home runs in a single game against Brooklyn in 1912. He has the most career triples of any player not in the Hall of Fame and ranks 6th all-time in the Cardinals franchise history.
In 1911, the Cardinals were involved in a train wreck while traveling from Philadelphia to Boston. The team skirted injury because of a last minute change in train cars, putting them at the rear of the train and out of harms way. Konetchy and manager Roger Bresnahan led the rescue mission, pulling several people from the wreckage and surely saving a few lives in the effort.
#36 – Jesse Haines, SP (1920-37, HOF)
Aside from his major league debut, and lone game, with Cincinnati in 1918, Haines spent the entirety of his Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a member of 5 NL Penant teams, winning 3 World Series. Haines broke open a bleeding blister in the 7th inning of Game 7 of the ’26 series. He was removed with the bases loaded, setting the stage for Grover Cleveland Alexander to enter the game and strike out Tony Lazzeri in one of the more legendary moments of Cardinals history.
Haines finest season came in 1927 when he posted a 2.72 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 300.2 Innings Pitched, 25 complete games, 6 shutouts, and a 24-10 record. He ranks highly in several statistical categories for the franchise. He ranks 2nd in wins, innings pitched, complete games, 3rd in games started, 4th in pitching WAR, and 6th in strikeouts.
As his career wore on, Haines began using a knuckleball to help his effectiveness and prolong his career.
Haines gained induction into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee in 1970, largely due to the efforts of former teammate Frankie Frisch, who was on the committee. While his worthiness has been debated, notably by Bill James, he stacks up well in Cardinals history and is no doubt one the greatest pitchers to don their uniform. He was part of the inaugural Cardinals Hall of Fame class in 2014.
Thanks for reading!
Come back tomorrow as Allen Medlock brings up players 35 to 31.