St. Louis Cardinal fans honor Albert Pujols on his return
By David Rice
Many LA Angel fans do not totally understand what kind of player Albert Pujols was before he came to Anaheim. There have been sparks of brilliance mixed in with a lot disappointment.
If you don’t realize that you are watching one of the greatest players to ever play the game in Albert Pujols its understandable because we haven’t seen the greatness like fans of the St. Louis Cardinals did.
Cardinal fans were treated to 11 years of greatness that saw Pujols help the Cardinals to three World Series where they won twice. He as also a 10-time all-star, three-time MVP, three-time Gold Glove winner and six-time Silver Slugger winner. Cardinal fans remembered all of Albert’s greatness and none of his decline.
So on Friday night when Albert Pujols took the field at Busch Stadium in St. Louis for the first time since winning the 2011 World Series the Cardinal fans and players let Pujols know how much they appreciated him. The Cardinals have only reached the World Series one time since Pujols left in 2013 where they were defeated by the Boston Red Sox.
So things haven’t been great in St. Louis since Pujols left. However, the Cardinals have made the playoffs three times since he left and won four playoff series. Compared to one playoff appearance by the Angels and no series victories since Pujols has been in Anaheim.
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Cardinal fans though remember the good times with Pujols and all his amazing feats. They also do not have memories of a contract that is in excess of 25 million dollars every year for the past eight seasons. They have missed out on some very special milestones that were done while he was wearing an Angel uniform.
Pujols recorded his 500th and 600th home run while wearing Angel red and also got his 3,000th hit while wearing a Halo jersey as well as his 2,000th RBI which us Angel fans got to enjoy. But that didn’t seem to matter to Cardinal fans on this night.
They sold out this game months again and packed Busch Stadium to its capacity and then some with the second-largest crowd in stadium history of 48, 423. When Albert came to the plate for the first time they gave him close to a 5-minute ovation that probably would have gone longer if Pujols hadn’t stepped into the batters box to hit with the crowd still on its feet.
Pujols flew out in his first at-bat and then walked in his second at-bat which led to a chorus of boos showered down on home team pitcher Michael Wacha. When he stepped to the plate for the final time of the evening in the 7th inning he legged out an infield single to a host of cheers again. Moments later when he was lifted for a pinch-runner the crowd again rose to its feet to salute Pujols one final time on this special night.
In addition to the crowd Pujols received a hug from long-time Cardinal Yadier Molina who was one of only two players still with the Cardinals when Pujols last played for the team. All in all it was a very special night that Angel fans should appreciate.
Another reason for the St. Louis fans affinity with Albert Pujols is that he still is very active in the community. The Pujols Family Foundation supporting children with Down Syndrome is still flourishing in St. Louis. Not only does the Pujols Family Foundation fund numerous programs for children with Down Syndrome, Albert comes back and takes part in many events the foundation puts on.
Pujols expanded his foundation into Southern California starting in 2013 with a Batter Up Cooking Class and a bowling event called Hitters and Splitters. The foundation also host a Southern California Prom that pays for outfits, make-up, and food for hundreds of children with Down Syndrome.
This is the legacy of a truly great man. So even if you don’t like the fact that Pujols’ on-field production has dropped drastically, you should appreciate Albert Pujols as a man of integrity and with a big heart.
Pujols should go down as one of the games greatest players and also one of the best human beings as well. Albert Pujols is a true champion for life.