09/26/2004 7:45 PM ET
Pujols reaches 500-RBI plateau
Cardinals slugger joins Joltin' Joe, Teddy Ballgame
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
DENVER -- You can't spend three days around this year's Cardinals without bumping into a milestone or a historic number.
|Stroke of genius: Albert Pujols joined Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as the only players to drive in 500 runs in their first four seasons. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
One day Jason Isringhausen is passing Bruce Sutter and closing in on Lee Smith. The next day, the 2004 starting rotation matches a feat last done in St. Louis by the 1944 team. One day soon, Jim Edmonds will be joining company with Johnny Mize.
And then there are the names and numbers that really make you take notice. When the answer to the trivia question is, "Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and anyone," that's something special. And that's where Albert Pujols now finds himself.
With his third RBI on Sunday, Pujols reached 500 in his four-year Major League career. He added one more later in the Cardinals' 9-3 win over the Rockies, giving him 501, but even without that, he had placed himself in the company of true baseball greatness. Pujols is the third player in the history of Major League Baseball to drive in 500 runs in his first four seasons, joining the Yankee Clipper and the Splendid Splinter.
"It's great," he said. "If I can stay healthy, I'm pretty sure there's gonna be a lot more. I just look at one year at a time, and the last four years have been great. We've got seven more games left. I'll just try to finish strong and think about it in the offseason what kind of years that I've had so far."
Pujols had already placed himself on plenty of short lists this season. He's the only player in history with 30 or more homers in each of his first four seasons. He's sure to end this year as the only one with a .300 average, 30-plus homers, 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs in each of his first four full seasons.
Now it's this, a three-man club with two of the greatest of the great. DiMaggio in his later years was known as the "greatest living ballplayer." Williams hoped to be considered "the greatest hitter who ever lived," and plenty of people feel he was.
DiMaggio, Williams, Pujols.
Manager Tony La Russa was taken aback by his young slugger's accomplishment.
"One twenty-five times four," he marveled. "That's a serious number."
As for Pujols, in typical fashion, he took a moment to enjoy the milestone, then quickly started looking ahead.
"It doesn't matter what you do in the season," he said. "When you get to the playoffs, you want to continue helping your team out to win and get to the World Series."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.