Former MLB player Rabe marvels at longevity of Cardinals trio

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, left, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) and...
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, left, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) and first baseman Albert Pujols (5) walk off the field together as they are all removed at the from a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates same time in the fifth inning Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 8:29 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - A weekend celebrating retiring St. Louis Cardinals legends Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina played out before three sellout crowds at Busch Stadium.   

Pujols, 42, and Molina, 40, along with pitcher Adam Wainwright, 41, who has not announced his plans for 2023, have defied their ages in leading the Cardinals to another National League Central Division title and head into the NL Wild Card series starting Friday in St. Louis.     

So, how did they defy Father Time?     

Quincy University athletic director Josh Rabe, 43, a former MLB player with the Minnesota Twins, says the top-of-the-food-chain players, whether it be MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL, have something others just don’t have.    

“I believe there’s three levels of players,” said Rabe, who spent parts of 2006-07 with the Twins, hitting three home runs, and seeing legendary players like Ken Griffey Jr. up close. “Seventy-five percent of the players are about the same and play at an elite level, whether they spend one year or 10 years in the majors.    

“Then, you have about 20% who are all-stars and are better than the other 75%. And then you have the 5%, the Pujols, Trout, Ohtani, who are so talented could roll out of bed at 2 a.m. and get hits. That’s not to say they don’t put in the work because they do, but they are just that talented.”      

What amazes Rabe the most is the longevity of the Cardinals veteran trio.       

Pujols has played 22 seasons, Molina 19 and Wainwright 17, with Wainwright (pitcher) and Molina (catcher) playing positions most susceptible to injury.     

“The longevity is what amazes me the most,” Rabe said. “You could bring a lot of smart people together and still not figure out how they do it. No person could explain it. Injuries are a part of the game (all three have had significant injuries throughout their careers) so how do they keep playing when most of us have already broken down.”     

Another part of the equation is the flair for the dramatic throughout the trio’s career.  

In Pujols’ case, it is the ability to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments under the brightest lights, which are too numerous to list.     

On his retirement weekend, Pujols hit career home run No. 701 on Friday night and smacked No. 702 on Sunday.    

Pujols homered in his first at-bat at Busch Stadium II in April 2001 and again in his final regular season at-bat in Busch Stadium III on Sunday, which also tied him for second in career RBIs with Babe Ruth (yes, that Babe Ruth).    

“He’s one of the 1 percenters,” Rabe said. “There’s just no explaining it.”    

With his 703rd career blast Monday night in Pittsburgh, Pujols took sole possession of second place on the all-time career RBI list.  

Probably the most memorable home run Pujols ever hit was a monumental 3-run moonshot off of Houston’s Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS when the Cardinals were one strike away from elimination and a raucous crowd of 50,000 was immediately silenced.     

“I played with a guy named Mike Coolbaugh in the Twins minor league system, and he was on the taxi squad with the Astros that year,” Rabe said. “He told the story that as the team was flying to St. Louis for Game 6 a couple of veterans got to the pilot and asked him to make an announcement at 30,000 feet that if you look to your right you can see the moon and that thing to your left is the ball Pujols hit.    

“He said the entire plane started laughing, including Lidge, and it took the pressure off and the Astros won the sixth game to win the series.”

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