If you’re like me, the most common word to come from your mouth during all-star introductions is, “WHO?” This is MY FAVORITE part of the All-Star Game. Every team gets an All-Star! Yeah, we’re all winners!
Baseball for once was ahead of the curve with this 21st century parenting tactic. Make everyone special so no one is actually special. But that’s not why I love it. I love it because you get some super, wonderful, random, “Why in the goodness gracious sakes alive heck was that dude an All-Star?” moments. Growing up on the south side (and later the sticks of Lonedell, Mo.), I could always count on at least one Birds-on-the-Bat every mid-summer classic.
In honor of those gents who brightened my listless and lonely childhood summers consisting of mostly hitting rocks into a pond with an aluminum Jose Canseco bat, here is a list of the one-off, “wait…he was an All-Star?” Cardinal All-Stars!
I have limited this to players who were one time All-Stars with the big club since 1980. Here they are, chronologically.
Ken Reitz, AS 1980- I first heard of Ken Reitz when I was 10. He worked with a friend of my mom’s somewhere in the land that encompasses the Three Rivers Conference. She told me he played for the Cardinals in the 1970s, so I went and grabbed my chocolate and Kool-Aid covered “Sports Illustrated Information Please Sports Almanac” to see who this fella was. Reitz won a Gold Glove in 1975, hit .263 as a Cardinal with 1,033 hits, 61 HRs, and 454 RBIs over at the hot corner.
Lonnie Smith, AS 1982- I have to admit, I never heard of this dude until I started researching this story. How did I miss him? In his lone All-Star campaign as a Cardinal he stole 68 bags, led the NL with 120 runs, finished second in the MVP voting behind Dale Murphy, had nine hits in the 1982 fall classic, and has a ring as a Redbird (not to mention one as a Phillie and another as a Royal). So why don’t we hear about Ol’ Lonnie? I guess when you only spend two seasons in the Gateway and play alongside fan favorites and legends like Ozzie and Willie you get lost in the fog of remembering. Here’s to you Lonnie, and those killer sideburns!
Felix Jose, AS 1991- Oh I remember you Felix Jose. When I was I chubby 9-year-old with a 35 mph heater you were the hot new star on the Astroturf. In his lone Cardinal All-Star season Felix hit .305, had 173 hits, 40 doubles and 77 RBIs. He did us proud and got a hit in that 1991 All-Star game after replacing the Andre Dawson. He may have bounced around after leaving our fair city, but his star burned bright while he was ours.
Bob Tewksbury, AS 1992- Tewks was a beast on the bump for the Cardinals. We need not forget his efforts on a lackluster number of clubs. From 1989-94 in STL, Bob went 67-46 with a 3.48 ERA. His 1992 season was one of the best in Cardinals history. The numbers speak for themselves. 16-5, 2.16 ERA over 233 innings, and only 20 walks! Holy Greg Maddux Batman! 32 starts and only 20 walks. For reference, this season Carlos Martinez had 21 walks by May 13th. And we would be remiss not to mention his World Series start against Brendan Fraser in 1994’s “The Scout.” I can’t locate the box score on that one, but I bet Tewksbury was dealing.
Tom Henke, AS 1995- Henke’s final campaign in the bigs was his best, and in true style he did it wearing Cardinal red. The ’95 season saw Henke sport a 1.82 ERA over 54.1 innings with 36 saves, and a 22nd place finish in the MVP voting. Yeah, 22nd, but still. And those sweet sweet spectacles. He looked like a middle school principle who accidently wandered into the bullpen and everyone was like, “Ok…I guess you can hang.”
Royce Clayton, AS 1997- Royce Clayton didn’t have to replace Aaron Miles. He didn’t have to replace David Eckstein. He had to replace Ozzie Smith. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ozzie was as famous in St. Louis as any human was in any single town on the planet. Clayton lasted a little over two seasons as a Cardinal, but 1997 was a bright spot. He had 153 hits, 39 doubles, 61 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Plus, he got to play Miguel Tejada in Moneyball…so…there’s that?
Ray Lankford, AS 1997- One time All-Star? What in the good great heck were people thinking? It pains me to add such a Cardinal great on this list. From 1991-2000 Ray Lankford was one of the top five center fielders in baseball. In that decade 3K Ray had 1330 hits, 204 hr’s, 756 RBIs, stole 236 bases, and had an OPS of .850. Not to mention being a five-time 20-20 man with a great glove and the sweetest swing this side of Kid Dynamite. Being an All-Star only once is a farce and a travesty. Based on pure numbers he should have not only been part of the mid-summer classic in 1997, but in ‘92, ‘96, and ’98. Oh, and who was the only player ever to hit two top deck home runs in a single game at old Riverfront Stadium? Eat it Cincinnati.
Kent Bottenfield, AS 1999- Dave Duncan’s masterpiece. Yes, he was an All-Star, but his greatest contribution to Cardinal country was somehow being turned into Jimmy Edmonds. 1999 was the only season Bottenfield was any good, whatsoever. Talk about outliers. He had 18 of his 46 career wins in his one all-star season. He had a 3.97 ERA and threw 190.1 innings and was promptly shipped out of the STL along with Adam Kennedy for the second best Cardinal CF of my teen-twenties years. Hey, thanks Kent.
Ryan Ludwick, AS 2008- Luddy had the bat, range, and glove to be a perennial All-Star, and maybe a Hall-Of-Famer, but never the health. 2008 was a glimpse of the possibilities of a player whose body would betray him more than Donovan Osborne betrayed every Cardinal fan. Yeah, that was a shot at Donovan Osborne, and in my opinion there aren’t enough going around. But back to Ludwick. In 2008 Ludwick won the Silver Slugger after posting a .299 batting average, 40 doubles, 37 HRs, 113 RBIs, and an OPS of .966. Mike Trout’s career OPS is .975.
Pat Neshek, AS 2014- Mike Matheny loved Pat Neshek more than I love the free tortilla chips at Las Palmas, yet his Redbird career lasted that one AS season. And what a season it was. Out of the Bullpen that summer Neshek went 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA, in 71 games with a WHIP of 0.787. 0.787? That is borderline insane. He cashed in that off season and signed with the Astros for a $4 million raise. I mean, do you blame him for leaving? He eventually made his way to Philly and another All-Star game this season. That delivery is crazier than Ray Lankford only being a one time all-star, but, whatever works.
Thank you, all 10 of you, for representing all of us in the STL at the Mid-Summer Classic and proudly sporting the Birds on the Bat. We owe you for the memories, the entertainment, and the bragging rights. Long live the one all-star per club tradition! And long live Lonnie Smith’s sideburns.
P.S. I left out Allen Craig because I still hold out childlike hopes he’ll be back, but I’ll probably write about him in 12 months. Tear, shed for the turtle. RIP Memphis Mafia.