The St. Louis Cardinals’ 50 greatest players
#1 Rogers Hornsby 2B
Ok, for those of you wondering why Hornsby is here and not Musial, take a look at the games played by the two players. Hornsby played in 1580 games and had a fWAR of 93.5, as opposed to 3,026 games for Musial’s 126.8 fWAR.
If you were to double Hornsby’s games as a Cardinal, he would likely surpass Musial’s 126.8 fWAR, in fact his overall fWAR (taking into effect his 1927-1937 years away from St. Louis) is a few wins above Musial’s at 130.3.
However, don’t let that make you think that I think any less of Musial’s status in Cardinal’s lore. If I could I would label them as 1 and 1a, but I am not going to do that. Hornsby was without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever play the game of baseball.
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We talked before about the impact the “dead ball” era had on hitting and, it’s just as evident in Hornsby’s numbers as his first five seasons with the Cardinals were from 1916-1920.
In those seasons, Hornsby hit over .300 in each season but the 1918 season when he hit .281, and slugged over .400 each season. His lowest OBP during that stretch was .349, and he had a .431 OBP at the turn of the era in 1920.
After 1920, Hornsby saw a dramatic increase in power hitting over 20 homers in four of six seasons from 1921-1926, including hitting 42 homers in 1922. During that time he also led the league in all three slash categories and posted an OBP over .400 every year except for 1926.
While Musial’s four seasons with a fWAR above 9.2 are impressive, Hornsby posted six seasons with a fWAR above 9.5, including four above 10.6. That includes Hornsby’s incredible 1924 season of 12.5 fWAR, a season that also saw him post a wRC+ of 221 (20 points better than Musial’s best).
During his stretch with the Cardinals, Hornsby also posted a defensive value of 96.1 runs above average at second base. I could go on and on about why the 1942 Hall of Fame elect is the best Cardinal ever, but what Musial does have above Hornsby is character.
Hornsby’s character was so bad in 1926 that it forced Branch Rickey to trade him for Frisch after the season. Musial is said to have been one of the nicer men to ever play the game, and was regarded as a high character man even after playing. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Hornsby was the best to ever play for the Cardinals.
This list was a lot of fun, it was hard, and took a lot of time. We may have missed a few things, but everybody does. I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you have something we missed, just drop a line in the comments!
Next: The 30 worst player in Cardinals' history
This concludes our historical series for December, if you missed any of these posts, you can check them out here!