No.1: Curt Flood
No player in St. Louis Cardinals history has started more games (1738), accumulated more WAR (42.3), and gathered more Gold Gloves (7) as a center fielder than Curt Flood. As a member of the dominant 1960s Cardinals teams, Curt Flood batted .293/.340/.390 and had an OPS+ of exactly 100. After making a spectacular catch at Wrigley Field in August 1968, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as “Baseball's Best Center Fielder.”
But Curt Flood is best remembered for what he did off the field. A contract dispute during and after the 1969 season led Flood to be traded to Philadelphia. Flood refused to go, citing their fans’ acrimonious and boorish behavior, especially toward Dick Allen. Since he could not go to another team under MLB’s reserve clause, Flood sued MLB for perceived violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
In a letter to then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on Christmas Eve 1969:
"After twelve years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. … I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decisions. I, therefore, request that you make known to all Major League clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season."- Curt Flood
Although the Supreme Court ruled that the reserve clause was exempt from Anti-Trust law, Flood would pave the way toward free agency. That contribution, plus what he did on the baseball field, makes him the greatest center fielder in St. Louis Cardinals history.