August 29, 2004: Albert Pujols becomes only the fourth player in big league history to collect 100 RBIs in each of his first four seasons, joining Hall of Famers Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.Pujols did it with his 40th home run of the season, a solo shot that helped St. Louis to a 4-0 victory at Pittsburgh. There are lots of “fours” here—Pujols and the Cardinals would go on to the World Series, where they’d be swept in four games by Boston as the Red Sox ended the “Curse of the Bambino.”
The 2004 World Series was the first of three he played in for St. Louis. And the L.A. Angels, hungering for one, signed Pujols as a free agent after the Cards won the championship in 2011. He had played 11 seasons in St, Louis (his first, a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2001, was Mark McGwire’s last). But in his 9½ years in Anaheim, the furthest the Angels went in the postseason was the AL Divisional Series in 2014. The home runs continued to pile up, though—he hit the 500th of his career in 2014 and the 600th in 2017.
With Pujols struggling last year, hitting just .198 with five home runs, the Angels designated him for assignment in June. But he had a decent finish after being picked up by the Dodgers, batting .254 and clubbing 12 homers. Toward the end of spring training last March, Pujols signed a one-year contract to return to the Cardinals and announced this would be the final season of his career. At 42, he is the oldest player in the majors for the third year in a row.
It appeared that 2022 would bring a quiet (albeit distinguished) ending to one of the greatest careers in baseball history. But now there’s drama, as we watch to see if Pujols can reach the 700 home run club, the only members of which are Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Pujols caught fire beginning August 10. In the 15 games he’s played since, he has hit seven home runs to reach a total of 693. The Cardinals have 34 games left, but one of the questions is: how many chances will Pujols get? In Sunday night’s 6-3 win over Atlanta, he was used as a pinch-hitter (popping out to first).
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)