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Witness to Greatness

By: Chris Kalna August 17th, 2010

(Cue Jeopardy music now.) Answer; Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky. Question; Who are the three most dominating athletes of basketball, football and hockey history? I know you are asking yourself what does this have to do with Cardinal baseball. Well each one of the athletes mentioned above have completely dominated their sport during their era. And almost without consideration or second thought each of these professionals are considered the very best to play their particular sport.

Just hearing there names forces you to envision greatness. During the 1980's and 1990's these three mega stars of their respected sports wooed and wowed us with their grace and athletic superiority like no others had before or since. All three were ultra competitive and shared a drive for perfection that is unfathomable.

Whether it was Wayne Gretzky coasting through defenders like a figure skater and putting the puck into the back of the net. Jerry Rice running a route across the middle while catching the football in stride by his fingertips to score a touchdown or Michael Jordan lifting off from the free throw line, suspended above the court before viciously slamming the ball through the net, we knew that we were witnessing greatness.

I look back on those moments and recall just how much I miss them. How much I would give to see one of those great players suit up for just one more game in their prime. It is natural for people to take things for granted. Those three athletes were so very dominant that it seemed as if they would even be victorious against Mother Nature and play forever. Of course life's clock eventually runs out on everyone and you look up and poof they are gone. No more one time slap shots, no more juggling catches and no more last second buzzer beaters. Left with only memories and the feeling that someone had just died instead of retired a multi-millionaire. We ache for their greatness and pine for the next model of perfection.

St. Louis Cardinal baseball fans need not look any further than on the lush green grasses of Busch Stadium. There they will find #5, Albert Pujols. It is there that they will find true greatness.

Pujols hit his 30th home run of this season on Sunday becoming the ONLY player in the entire history of America's pastime to do so in his first 10 seasons. But that is not what makes Albert great. His greatness is his consistency. In what some experts claim to be the most difficult thing in sport, hitting a baseball, Pujols has made it look remarkably easy. The numbers that he has compiled through his first 10 seasons is nothing short of astounding.

If you were to average out his career stats into a 162 game season they would be as follows. 123 runs scored, 42 homers, 128 RBI's and a .332 batting mark. His very worst season in each category is still monstrous by any era's standards. In 2002, his second season he "only" hit .314 and in 2007 he compiled only 99 runs, 32 homers and 103 RBI's. That's Albert's worst statistical line all years combined. The only thing more amazing than that, is that he is under appreciated. His statistical body of work is unparralled by any one player in modern baseball. Yet if his average hovers around .300 or he goes 60 ab's without a home run, even Cardinal fans scrutinize this national baseball treasure that we have the honor of witnessing.

St. Louis had the opportunity to see defensive greatness for over 15 seasons in shortstop Ozzie Smith. He made fielding an art form. To become that good at his craft, Ozzie practiced for endless hours up until he retired. That is what made him what he was while winning 13 straight Gold Gloves. I can't speak for anyone, but myself, but I took that wizardry for granted. And I sorely miss his defensive greatness and would give anything to watch him dive deep into the hole, spring up and throw one more runner out. Wouldn't you? Well let's not ever feel that way about Albert. Realize what we have and cling to it desperately.

I once heard a quote by the late legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, this is not verbatim. He gathered his new football team, the Green Bay Packers, that had been swimming in mediocrity for years and told them. "We are are here to win. To do so we will strive for perfection. We will never reach it, but along the way we will attain excellence." That is what we are watching, excellence, each time Pujols slips that Cardinal uniform over his impressive frame. Obviously time will take it's toll on #5 just like all superstars of sport before him, but do not allow yourself to take him for granted. Enjoy this time because the moment will not last and someday Cooperstown will be calling. Then you will beg for just one more at bat, just one more clutch hit, because poof, he'll be gone.


  1. Pujols rules! Just like you said, we are witnessing history in the making as we watch StL's #5 step up to the plate in a Cardinal uniform! What a privelege it is to live in St. Louis and watch this future hall of famer in action! Another great blog by the way. Keep up the good work.

  2. Watching Puhols bat is almost as great as watching Catfish land a keeper in a buddy bass tournament. If I had to choose between the two, I think I'd rather watch CK reel in a linked.


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