The St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Midwest Lineup was built a little bit differently from the other lineups in this series. This time the attempt was made to find a former or current Cardinal at each of the nine positions covering the 15 states that make up the Midwest.
This was much harder than anticipated due to the fact that so many Midwestern players – and good ones at that – played the same position. Two of the most notable to be excluded are second baseman Miller Huggins and pitcher Burleigh Grimes.
Here is the final lineup for the Midwest.
Leon Durham – Cincinnati, OH
The 15th overall pick in the 1976 draft bookended his time in St. Louis around a strong career with the Chicago Cubs. Durham came out of Woodward High School in Cincinnati, OH and his major league debut came on May 27, 1980. His first big league hit was a single into center field also driving in the first run of his career. Over the course of 96 rookie games with the Cardinals at a variety of positions, Durham hit a solid .271 with 15 doubles and 42 RBI.
Whitey Herzog (Cardinals manager and GM) and Durham’s Triple-A manager Hal Lanier thought Durham could be another Dave Parker or Willie Stargell. Herzog wanted to trade St. Louis first baseman Keith Hernandez to the Chicago Cubs in the 1980-81 offseason but the Northsiders insisted it be Durham not Hernandez for future Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter.
Bill Virdon – Hazel Park, MI
Originally drafted by the New York Yankees, the Hazel Park, Michigan native arrived in St. Louis via the trade route. The steady hitting, fleet footed, strong armed center fielder became one of the best for the next decade. In his first full season with the Cardinals, he was named the 1955 Rookie of the Year.
Technically, Virdon replaced Cardinals great Stan Musial in right field. Musial was to move to first base but instead manager Eddie Stanky shifted 1954 Rookie of the Year Wally Moon to right and Virdon took over in center. A slow start in 1956 got Virdon shipped off to Pittsburgh. The one-plus season Virdon played with “The Birds,” he hit .271 with 165 in 168 games.
Roger Maris – Hibbing, MN
The man known most for hitting 61 in “’61” was an excellent if not great ballplayer. The right fielder played in seven World Series, won two American League MVP awards and a Gold Glove. A seven-time All-Star, Maris remains the all-time American League single season home run king.
As a member of the Cardinals, the right-fielder helped lead the St. Louis to the 1967 World Series title. It was perhaps the finest Series of his career. His performance in 1967 was overshadowed, yet it is the stuff upon which legends are built. Maris drove home both runs in the 2-1 Game 1 win against the Red Sox. In Game 3, his one-out hit in the sixth gave starter Nelson Briles all the cushion he needed to go the distance. In Game 4, the number three hitter in the lineup drove home Brock and Flood giving St. Louis and Gibson a lead they would never relinquish. In a Game 5 loss, he went 2-for-4 with a home run. Finally in Game 7 with the series tied three games apiece, Maris went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Overall, he hit .385 (10-26) with seven RBI in the 1967 World Series.
“Sunny Jim” as he was known would probably still be smiling now knowing that after all this time he is still one of the greatest first basemen in St. Louis Cardinals history. Playing in the early heydays of the team, Bottomley might not have gotten his opportunity were it not for the keen baseball eye of a police officer who knew Branch Rickey. Rickey, then the general manager of the Cardinals, sent a scout to check out the 18-year-old prospect. After a brief tryout, Bottomley was signed, and by 1923, he became the Cardinals fixture at first base.
He played in four World Series and was on the first St. Louis Cardinals title championship team in 1926. In 1928, he became just the second member of the 20 (doubles) – 20 (triples) – 20 (home run) club. In the history of baseball, no one had more doubles than Bottomley in a 20-20-20 season (42) and only Willie Mays hit more home runs than his 31. Speaking of history, the 1928 NL MVP’s record of 12 RBI in a single game still stands almost 100 years later.
Growing up in Illinois, all “Red” knew was baseball and amazingly, a staple to the eye only made him better. Beginning his career as a war-time replacement for future St. Louis icon Stan Musial, Schoendienst went on to wear a Cardinals uniform almost until to the day he passed away at the age of 95 in 2018.
Red was as surehanded fielder as they came (.983 fielding average) and a .283 hitter who was clutch over 19 big league seasons. After his playing days, he took to managing and until Tony La Russa came along, he was the organization’s winningest manager. The 10-time All-Star spent 67 years serving the Cardinals.
Scott Rolen – Evansville, IN
Seven All-Star appearances, eight Gold Glove Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award, five postseason appearances, a World Series ring, (with a 1.213 OPS in that Series) and yet Rolen is still on the outside looking to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. Though all of this did not occur whole he was as a member of the Cardinals, let’s talk about 2006 alone. Rolen hit .292, slugged 22 home runs and drove home 95 while leading the Cardinals to the World Series title.
The overall picture shows that Rolen was one of the best for St. Louis from 2002 through 2007 averaging 18 home runs, 75 RBI and a consistent .286 average. He was a five-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger Award with St. Louis and entered the team Hall of Fame in 2019.
Daryl Spencer – Wichita, KS
Spencer began his 10-year MLB career in 1952 with the New York Giants and six years later, he hit the first home run in San Francisco Giants history. Spencer arrived in St. Louis in December 1959 after having been on the team’s radar ever since he played for the independent Pauls Valley Raiders in Oklahoma. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Spencer was considered a power hitting shortstop and power was something the Cardinals desperately needed. The Wichita, Kansas native played the same position as his boyhood idol Marty Marion.
Spencer delivered for the Cardinals in 1960, hitting 16 home runs, finishing 10th in the league in on base percentage (.365), gathered 131 base knocks and produced a team-high 84 walks. Including the partial 1961 season, through 185 games with St. Louis, Spencer batted .257 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. He had 164 hits, 104 walks and a .365 on-base percentage.
Bob Uecker – Milwaukee, WI
The backstop was a Cardinal for just two seasons and known more for his defensive prowess than his bat. Behind the dish for more than 700 innings as a Cardinal, he committed just seven errors. Even though Uecker was a one-dimensional player, he managed to carve out a solid six-year career before moving to the broadcast booth where he has covered games for more than a half century as the voice of his hometown Brewers.
Just saying his name struck fear into the opposition. To say the right-hander was intimidating is an understatement. In part because of his domination, baseball lowered the mound. And even after that, Gibson won 19 or more games in three of the next four seasons. In 482 starts, he completed 255 games including 28 of 35 in 1968. Over a 13-year span from 1961-1974, he threw 200 plus innings 11 times. Between 1962 and 1972, he struck 200 plus batters a season nine times. Depending on the source, Gibson’s career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranks between 15th and 25th of the 1,000 hurlers listed. There’s not much else you can say about the Cardinals’ greatest pitcher of all time.
Next up: The West Coast All-Time Cardinals Lineup
Prior articles in this series
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