As you may have heard, Albert Pujols will return to Busch Stadium this weekend for the first time since he left the Cardinals, and (almost certainly) the final time in his career.
The ovation will be enormous. In fact, I’m hoping fans actually take the field, lift Albert onto their shoulders, and parade him through the streets, while the citizens of St. Louis lay flowers at his feet. El Hombre deserves it.
But as touching as I expect that reception to be, what I’m really hoping happens is that Albert blasts one last home run out of the ballpark. He hit the first Cardinal home run out of the new ballpark in 2006, and went on hit a total of 110 there. Here’s hoping we get to see 111.
As we mark the final days until the return of The Machine, I thought I’d remind us all of what a beautiful thing it is when Albert Pujols hits a ball out of Busch Stadium.
April 9, 2001
“Welcome to St. Louis, Albert Pujols.”
That was Joe Buck’s call as Albert launched his first of many balls into the left field bleachers of Old Busch. It was his first at-bat in St. Louis.
The Cardinal faithful demanded Pujols come back out for a curtain call, which he did.
Oct. 13, 2005
Albert Pujols hit a very famous home run in the 2005 NLCS. You may remember it: It was off Brad Lidge, in Houston... it still hasn’t landed.
But in Game 2 of that series, Pujols hit what would be his final homer in Old Busch stadium: A 6th inning solo shot off Roy Oswalt.
“I don’t know if there’s a more powerful right-handed swing in all of baseball.”
April 10, 2006
The first player to homer in new Busch Stadium was Milwaukee’s Bill Hall. But the first Cardinal was exactly who you’d want it to be: Albert Pujols.
The broadcast had barely returned from commercial break in the Top of the 3rd when Pujols blasted the first pitch of the inning deep into the left field seats.
“What a start on Opening Day,” Joe Buck called. “New ballpark: Same old Albert.”
“I’m not even sure if Carlos Lee, the left fielder, knows the inning started.”
(If that video didn’t take you right to the Pujols HR, this link should get you there.)
Sept. 22, 2011
With seven games remaining in the season, the Cardinals were 5 games out and virtually eliminated from the division, and still 1.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card spot. There was still faint hope for postseason play, but The Thinking Fan had to assume they were watching the final (guaranteed) days of Albert Pujols in St. Louis.
With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, Pujols hit his 37th and final home run of the regular season. It gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead, but the Redbirds would ultimately lose the game 8-6.
There’s not a lot of fanfare around the home run. Mark McGwire can be seen applauding in the dugout, in a nice little bit of Busch Stadium Home Run kismet. Nobody really knew it would be the last he would hit in St. Louis for at least another eight years, and possibly ever. Pujols would hit all of his postseason home runs on the road during that magical 2011 playoff run.
And so here it comes: One last chance to see Albert being Albert. He’ll get a nice round of applause when he walks to the plate, but applause just for walking out on the field is for Old Timers. Albert is still playing. I want to see him hit a dinger.
Thanks to VEB’er Michael_68_1999 for an assist on some of these videos.