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Cardinals Legends Play Dungeons ‘N Dragons

What class would we assign to legendary Cardinals if they were playing the world’s greatest role-playing game?

Let’s be honest. This hasn’t been a super fun offseason.

The Cardinals have added to their rotation, found some interesting bullpen pieces, and brought back some former fan favorites for another go ‘round. Those efforts have not been able to whitewash the stain of a 91-loss season. The club has, on paper, put themselves back into position to contend in the weakened NL Central, even if they remain a full lap behind the mega-teams in the League.

Still, there’s a persistent undercurrent of frustration from some Cards fans. That seems likely to last until the endorphin hit of Spring Training optimism in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I think we need to play a little! Let’s set aside the analysis and player breakdowns and have some good ol’ fashioned pointless fun!

My completely ridiculous and absurd question for today: What if Cardinals legends got together to play Dungeons and Dragons?

DnD – Dungeons and Dragons – is huge now. It wasn’t always so. When I grew up, DnD was a game played by nerds and Satan worshippers (that’s a joke!) in unfinished basements. As a high schooler back in Springfield, MO in the mid-90s, I did not play. I was WAY too cool for that. (All my old HS friends are snorting at that one.)

I didn’t start playing DnD until 2020. COVID hit. My super-nerdy high-school-aged son and willing-to-do-anything-the-family-does junior-high-aged daughter were stuck inside together. My son had dabbled in the game with his buddies. He kept telling me I would love it. I’m a very good sport when it comes to my kids. So, to encourage a little pandemic-fueled family fun, we called up one of my long-time friends (who was nerdy enough to play DnD in high school) on Zoom and he taught us how to be Dungeon Masters. We spent six months on that first game. We were hooked!

Nearly 4 years later my son has gone on to launch a gaming channel with his college friends. I’ve started a regular game with a bunch of buddies that’s going on its third year. My son joins in. My daughter is too busy for that now, but she still helps me write my plots. It’s a family thing for us and awesome for me to still be able to play games with my nearly grown children.

Nerd culture has gone mainstream. DnD is a big business, with millions and millions of players in the US and around the world. There are Dungeon and Dragons movies. Uber popular Dungeons and Dragons video games. Homebrew Dungeons of Dragons live streams have become Dungeons and Dragons animated series on major streaming platforms like Amazon.

It’s fun! It really is. As a writer and storyteller, it’s right up my alley. You should try it! Some brave soul should start a VEB game. I would join in.

To play DnD, you design a character from a variety of backgrounds – elf, dwarf, human, orc, goblin, gnome, etc. – and give them a class. These classes are where I want to focus our attention. A class defines the types of things that your character can and can’t do; the things they are good at and not so good at. There are a bunch of classes to choose from in the greater DnD collective, but we will focus on the 12 core classes listed in the Player’s Handbook: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.

In our imaginary world, our favorite legendary Cardinals players are gathering around the table to start their own game. The rules are simple. They can’t play someone else. They have to take a class that fits who they are. Mark McGwire can’t become a gnome druid. Vince Coleman can’t be a goliath barbarian. They have to take their personalities, positions, skillsets, and unique character traits to take a class and make a character that reflects what made them great as baseballers.

Who would they choose? Let’s build a DnD campaign out of our favorite Cardinals players! And provide a backup player in case our main character has to miss a session or two.

Before I offer my choices, I’ll let you play along. You can head over to DNDBeyond.com and find a brief description of each class. Consider the classes. Consider legendary Cardinals players. Make some assignments. Then you can tell me what I got wrong.

Off we go. Session zero. We’ll go in alphabetical order.

Barbarian

Class characteristics: “A fierce warrior who can enter a battle rage”
Primary Ability: Strength
Primary Saves: Strength and Constitution

We start with the barbarian class. Barbarians are warriors. Soldiers. Fighters. Their favorite thing to do is hit bad guys with blunt objects or really large and sharp pointy things. They have to be good athletes; barbarians must be both strong and tough because they are going to take a heavy beating. They also have serious anger management issues. When in the heat of battle barbarians can rage – a type of battle berserk. Raging gives the player extra strength abilities and limits the damage they can take from certain types of weapons.

My choice for the franchise’s barbarian? It’s gotta be Bob Gibson. The Cardinals’ legendary rager! Hit a home run off him? He’ll track you down during an old-timer’s game and plunk you. He struck out 17 Tigers in a World Series game. He’s an insane athlete and competitor. He’s the perfect barbarian.

Backup player: Chris Carpenter. Just ask Brendan Ryan about Carp’s temper.

Bard

Class characteristics: “An inspiriting magician whose power echoes the music of creation.”
Primary Ability: Charisma
Primary Saves: Dexterity and Charisma

Bards are underrated. They are strong magic users, who can also fight a little bit. They’re musicians or storytellers and use their charismatic gifts to win over friends and enemies alike. They can be good or bad, scholars or scoundrels, but above all else, they move others with their charm and ability before stabbing them in the belly with a rapier. Bards can use some range weapons, some melee weapons, and have a wide variety of magical spells at their disposal. Bards are do-it-all magicians, storytellers, and storymakers.

Cardinals’ history is full of charismatic charmers. Bright smiles. Big personalities. Superstars who gained national recognition. But there’s one man who stands out from all the rest. Our bard carries a harmonica and is probably still the most popular and well-known Cardinal ever. That is, of course, Stan the Man Musial. Musial did a little bit of everything on the baseball diamond. But he always did it in such a magical way. That’s the definition of a well-played bard.

Backup player: Adam Wainwright. You can literally go buy his album. Dude is a bard. 100%.

Cleric

Class Characteristics: “A priestly champion who wields divine magic in service of a higher power.”
Primary Ability: Wisdom
Primary Saves: Wisdom and Charisma

I’ll be honest, I’ve never played a cleric. I like stabbing things with pointy objects or calling down hellfire on my foes. Clerics can do some of that but they are mainly support players. Clerics epitomize wisdom. They know stuff. They’re smart. But their smarts come as much from practical experience as book knowledge, and from a faith-like devotion to their deity and its cause. Clerics have an innate ability to channel divine power into very practical uses on the battlefield. They heal things, influence other things, come through in the clutch, and provide supernatural support to the warriors of their party. When they aren’t casting support spells they enjoy hitting things with blunt objects… but not too hard. And typically carry some kind of defining emblem of their divine devotion. (Like a symbol tattooed on their neck or something.)

The Cardinals’ cleric? I already gave it away. Wisdom. Charisma. Divine ability to support a pitching staff. Neck tattoos. Yadier Molina. We can’t confirm or deny that Molina might have taken a level in barbarian sometime in the past, too.

Backup player: We covered the catcher as a cleric. How about a pitching coach? Let’s go with Dave Duncan.

Druid

Class Characteristics: “A priest of the Old Faith, wielding the powers of nature and adopting animal forms.”
Primary Ability: Wisdom
Primary Saves: Intelligence and Wisdom

I love playing druids. They’re magic users. They’re all earthy tree-huggers, in touch with the natural world. But the natural world is filled with some really strong forces. And really big creatures. Druids can be “glass canons”. Easy to destroy. But they are extremely wise and man can they hit hard!

Druids have an ability called wild shape, where they can turn into any animal they have seen up to a certain rating. When you start, that’s like a squirrel or a cat. Maybe a tortoise, if you see where I’m going here. Later on, that can become a full-grown silverback gorilla, a giant eagle, or a thundering rhinoceros. Honestly, there’s nothing better than blasting down a group of goblins with thunder wave and then belly-flopping all of them as a hippopotamus.

The Cardinals have had their share of animal friends, who supported the club’s cause through timely actions on the field. Rally squirrel. The rally cat. But there was always one man, one cat-loving, dog-saving druid at the heart of it all: Tony LaRussa. Sure, he wasn’t much of a hitter at the plate, but as a manager, he brought it as hard as anyone.

Backup player: “Ducky” Medwick. For a little fun, go look up how Joe Medwick earned his nickname. If you walk like a duck and run like a duck, then you must be... (a witch!)

Fighter

Class Characteristics: “A master of martial combat, skilled with a variety of weapons and armor.”
Primary Ability: Strength or Dexterity
Primary Saves: Strength and Constitution

There’s no mystery to this next class. Fighters are fighters. They use a variety of weapons to kill their opponents. Swords. Bows. Crossbows. Daggers. Staves. Halberds. Spears. Axes. Hand axes. Battle axes. Great axes. You get the idea. They don’t use magic. They just attack, attack, attack. They can be strong or dexterous and they are really hard to bring down.

For our fighter class, we need one of the team’s best pure hitters. There are several choices. Musial could fit here, but charisma is such a huge part of his legacy. Pujols? Definitely. But fighter is not the only warrior class. I landed on the player who might have been the best pure hitter in Cardinals history relative to their era. That’s Rogers Hornsby, whose 171 wRC+ is the highest among any Cardinals player in history with more than 550 games played with the club. This is VEB! I had to get some stats in here.

Backup player: Mark McGwire. If I take out the 550 games classification, McGwire barely edges Hornsby out in wRC+ as a Cardinal.

Monk

Class Characteristics: “A master of martial arts, harnessing the power of the body in pursuit of physical and spiritual perfection.”
Primary Ability: Dexterity and Wisdom
Primary Saves: Strength and Dexterity

Monks are kind of weird. They’re like ninjas. Except they don’t use many bladed weapons. Monks do a lot of hand-to-hand fighting, multiple quick strikes with fists, feet, or a staff. There’s some magic to monks, but not in the way you would think. They don’t cast spells. Instead, they channel the magic from within to make themselves move faster, strike harder, and absorb damage. Dexterity is their primary attribute, but they can apply their dex in wise, practical, and efficient ways.

How does that apply to a baseball diamond? This has to be a smart hitter and an incredible fielder. Not super flashy or showboaty – i.e. Jim Edmonds’ in his crop top is no monk – but he needs to be efficient and effective at every part of the game. There are two really good choices here, but one stands apart: Curt Flood. Flood’s combination of incredible defense and very good offense fits well here. He was so devoted to his core beliefs that he sacrificed his career for his cause. That’s a monk!

Backup player: Scott Rolen. Physically, Rolen fits the characteristics of a monk to a Ki... (It’s a monk joke.)

Paladin

Class Characteristics: “A holy warrior bound to a sacred oath.”
Primary Ability: Strength and Charisma
Primary Saves: Wisdom and Charisma

Paladins are knights. That’s the simple way to look at it. What if a cleric and a fighter met up in some secret cloistered corner of a sacred temple and had a baby? That chubby-cheeked 8 lb. 5 oz. bundle of holy magic and destruction would grow up to be a paladin. Such a warrior would be destined to make a sacred oath to rid the world of some vile evil force and would get all smashy with axes and war hammers and two-handed great swords and stuff to do it. They are super strong but also have a little magic in them. Paladins can call on that little something extra in just the right moments to destroy evil in the name of their oath.

One such moment? How about Game 5 of the ’05 NLCS against Brad Lidge and the evil Killer B’s! Albert Pujols is the perfect paladin. Strength? Check. Charisma? Yup. Wisdom? Why not. A knack for turning his bat into a sacred object of blessed holy force to smite the ruin of his enemies? Absolutely.

Backup player: So many options! Matt Holliday. Jack Clark. Let’s go with Ken Boyer.

Ranger

Class Characteristics: “A warrior who combats threats on the edges of civilization.”
Primary Ability: Dexterity and Wisdom
Primary Saves: Strength and Dexterity

Rangers are underrated. A lot of DnD players think rangers suck. Why? Rangers borrow many parts of the druid class, like their love for nature and the wilds and ability to interact with animals (but not become them), without the added benefits of being superior fighters or using advanced magic. They’re your prototypical monster hunters. They get special abilities and bonuses against certain kinds of enemies (which your Dungeon Master might or might not ever let you face). They are speedy. Dexterous, but not weak. Stealthy. Rangy. Give them a bow and a short sword and plenty of space to roam around in and you have a happy ranger.

How does that fit a baseball team? It has to be an outfielder. If we’re talking about a rangy center fielder with a little bit of magic in him and some monster-killing ability, it has to be Jim Edmonds, doesn’t it? Curt Flood would fit here, too, but we’ve already used him.

Backup player: Ray Lankford. Jim Edmonds lite.

Rogue

Class Characteristics: “A scoundrel who uses stealth and trickery to overcome obstacles and enemies.”
Primary Ability: Dexterity
Primary Saves: Dexterity and Intelligence

While the Cardinals might happen to like nice men, rogues are scoundrels. Thieves. Rascals. They steal things. They’re quick and dexterous. They can hide in plain sight and stealth their way to a vicious attack when you are not looking. Just when you think you’re safe, rogues will stick a dagger in your back.

This one might be the most obvious category for us to fill. What do you steal in baseball? Bases! And the Cardinals have a legend (or two) in that class, don’t they? That’s right! Delino Deshields! Ok… just kidding. But roguery runs deep in Carinals’ red. We gotta go with Lou Brock.

Backup player: Vince Coleman. Too bad he got a Nat 1 on a dexterity check that one time with the tarp.

Sorcerer

Class Characteristics: “A spellcaster who draws on inherent magic from a gift of bloodline.”
Primary Ability: Charisma
Primary Saves: Constitution and Charisma

Sorcerers are not wizards and wizards aren’t sorcerers. Sorcerers aren’t made. They are born. They just are. Sorcerers are charisma casters. They are magic users but their magic doesn’t come from study or intellect or a pact with a divine being. It comes from who they are and their lineage. That magic shines out of them in a variety of powerful and awe-inspiring ways.

Can you think of a Cardinals legend who oozed with charisma? Who worked unbelievable magic on the playing field? A player who could start out practicing with a paper bag and somehow become one of the best fielders the game has ever seen? Clever wordplay might make Ozzie Smith the Wizard of Oz, but he’s not a wizard, Harry Potter. He’s a sorcerer. He’s the perfect DnD sorcerer.

Backup player: Dizzy Dean. We still gush about Dizzy’s charisma and talent, and he’s been gone for fifty years.

Warlock

Class Characteristics: “A wielder of magic that is derived from a bargain with an extraplanar entity.”
Primary Ability: Charisma
Primary Saves: Wisdom and Charisma

Warlocks are fun to play. For our purposes, they’re not that distinct from bards or sorcerers. They are magic users who focus on charisma and wisdom. They derive their power from some kind of extraplanar entity with whom they’ve made a deal. Warlocks are the literal definition of devil magic. You can look at a warlock and have no idea how they are doing the things that they are doing, but what they are doing is destroying your mind and body so they can consume your soul!

We all know the Cardinals have an open pit to the Abyss below Busch Stadium and create new devil-magic warlocks annually. There are a lot of great choices we could go with. But who was the chief warlock for the Cardinals? The best out-of-nowhere hero, who had to have made a deal with a devil to bring the club a supernatural victory? It’s David Freese. Game 7 proves it.

Backup player: Matt Carpenter, who will hopefully dig deep into the Card’s supply of magic for one more run.

Wizard

Class Characteristics: “A scholarly magic-user capable of manipulating the structures of reality.”
Primary Ability: Intelligence
Saves: Intelligence and Wisdom

Wizards are scholars. They’re smart and wise. They are not just well-read, they wrote the books. They turn their knowledge into spells that give them great power in a wide variety of disciplines – spiritual, natural, arcane. They can magically lift and move objects. They can use the energy in the universe to cast a fireball and carefully control its explosive arc. They can charm other people and use their smashing intellect to manipulate and influence them to do their bidding. What they can’t do is wield strong weapons.

From a Cardinals’ perspective, a wizard would be a keeper of the organization’s collective knowledge. They are the purveyors of the Cardinals’ way. Sure, they’re a player. And a strong one at that. But their influence goes far, far beyond the playing field. Red Schoendienst would be my choice here.

Backup player: George Kissell. I don’t even need to explain.