#1 Albert Pujols
Cardinal fans were lucky to see a decade of greatness from Albert Pujols as he patrolled first base while being a dynamic force at the plate. That decade received a cherry on top when Pujols returned to the Cardinals, after a decade away, to finish out his career in a Cardinals uniform.
While playing left field and first base between 2001-03, he took over as first basemen for the Cardinals in 2004 and stayed there through the 2011 season. He was an All-Star in 2001 and earned National League Rookie of the Year. From 2003-10 he earned All-Star honors. In 2005-2008 and 2009, he was the National League Most Valuable Player. In 2006 and 2010, he was a Gold Glove winner at first base. He was the Silver Slugger winner at first base for 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
He was a pivotal piece to the Cardinals World Series championships in 2006 and 2011 while also significantly impacting the 2004 World Series. He had a three-home run game in the 2011 World Series against the Rangers. One of his most memorable moments came in the 2005 NLCS against the Houston Astros when he knocked a home run off of closer Brad Lidge, forcing a game six. While the Cardinals ultimately lost that series, it was still the most memorable moment.
After the 2011 season, Pujols left the Cardinals to sign a 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angles worth $240 million. In May 2021, he was released by the Angels. Pujols got a second chance as he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers a week later. The deal allowed Pujols to compete but also act as a mentor to younger players. He said getting this second chance reinvigorated him and his love of baseball.
Before 2022, it was established that the designated hitter rule would expand to the National League. This led to the opportunity for a return to the Cardinals to finish out his career. In March 2022, Pujols sent a bolt through Cardinal nation when he signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He took on a similar role he had with the Dodgers. He would assist Goldschmidt at first base and be a designated hitter while also being a mentor to the many youngsters on the Cardinals' roster.
Pujols's 2022 season with the Cardinals was a fairytale ending to his impressive career. It solidified his legendary status with the Cardinals organization. It healed wounds from when he exited the Cardinals organization. It was heartwarming to see him reconnect with the Cardinals' fan base. Seeing him with his friends, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, was excellent.
While it would have been fitting to see him win another World Series in his final season, it was satisfying to see him hit his 700th home run in a Cardinals uniform. While it would have been amazing to see him get it at Busch Stadium, he felt satisfaction at Dodger Stadium, where getting that 700th home run was made possible when his love of the game was rekindled with the Dodgers.
Yes, Pujols didn't spend his entire career with the Cardinals. But, he impacted the game of baseball and the Cardinals organization with his play at first base for over a decade.
Pujols is a Cardinals legend. Pujols's work over a decade, plus an incredible 2022 season, solidified that legendary status. It makes him the top first baseman in the Cardinals' history.