Editor's note: YCN contributor Bill Ivie Jr. has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for St. Louis. Readers will determine by poll (upper right side of the page) who's No. 1. Results will be revealed Saturday, Aug. 3.
St. Louis has long been known as the "Gateway to the West" and has routinely been at the heart of the sports world. While it is true that many great athletes have come through the town, many of these athletes have transcended sports and become well-known and beloved people of the community.
This list takes a look at those great personalities and outstanding athletes that have excelled in the various sports they chose as professions.
In alphabetical order, here are the top 10 professional athletes in St. Louis sports history:
Lou Brock (Cardinals, 1964-79)
Brock, one of the all-time greats to ever wear a Cardinals uniform, redefined the game of baseball with his speed and intelligence on the base paths. He led the National League in stolen bases an astonishing eight times, in runs twice, and even in doubles and triples during the 1968 campaign.
The Chicago Cubs' trade of Lou Brock to St. Louis is regarded as one of the worst in the history of sports, if you examine it from the Chicago side. St. Louis gained a Hall of Fame baseball player that set numerous records and became one of the most loved players to ever take the field for the team.
Dan Dierdorf (Cardinals, 1971-83)
Long before the St. Louis Rams came to town, the St. Louis Cardinals were the name of both the football and baseball franchises in town. Dierdorf, whose career took him to Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played for the football Cardinals and later achieved greatness as a well-respected announcer. Dierdorf's outstanding career included six Pro Bowl selections, three selections as lineman of the year, and he once went over two years without allowing a single sack.
Marshall Faulk (St. Louis Rams, 1999-2005)
Faulk certainly wasn't the first dual-threat out of the backfield. But with his speed, shiftiness and the Rams' sudden success, every team gradually started seeking a Marshall Faulk-type back for its offense.
Faulk was so dynamic in his first three seasons with the Rams that he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors all three campaigns and captured the league MVP award in 2000. With Kurt Warner and Faulk leading the way, the Rams went from laughingstock to The Greatest Show on Turf, winning Super Bowl XXXIV during the '99 campaign and playing for the title again two years later.
Inducted in the Hall of Fame two years ago, Faulk paved the way for versatile RBs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes and Brian Westbrook among others.
Bob Gibson (Cardinals, 1959-75)
A list of great athletes in St. Louis history would be incomplete without possibly the greatest athlete to ever call a St. Louis stadium home. Gibson's career redefined baseball, causing the league to alter the rules to favor hitters after his dominant 1968 season. His league-leading ERA of 1.12, 13 shutouts, and 268 strikeouts were part of the most dominant single-season performances in league history. The Hall of Fame career of Gibson was impressive, especially considering that he was a well-decorated basketball player in college who even spent time playing for the Harlem Globetrotters under the nickname "Bullet."
Brett Hull (Blues, 1988-98)
The "Golden One," Hull is still possibly the most famous player to ever call the Blues his team for most of his career. With the Blues, Hull was the NHL's top goal scorer for three seasons, led in goals-created twice, led in even-strength goals three times, and led in game-winning goals twice. Hull became the face of hockey in St. Louis and established businesses in the area while he was a Blue. While he currently lives in Dallas, he does run a junior hockey franchise in the North American Hockey League called the St. Louis Bandits.
Stan Musial (Cardinals, 1941-44, 46-63)
St. Louis is a baseball town. With or without that statement, Stan "The Man" Musial is St. Louis. His accomplishments on the field led him to the Hall of Fame, as well as being immortalized by a statue that has become a St. Louis landmark.
He has been awarded the Navy Memorial's Lone Sailor Award as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His marriage lasted almost 72 years before his wife, Lillian, passed away in May of 2012. Upon the death of Musial, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon possibly said it best when he issued the statement, "Stan Musial was a great American hero who -- with the utmost humility -- inspired us all to aim high and dream big. The world is emptier today without him, but far better to have known him. The legacy of 'Baseball's Perfect Warrior' will endure and inspire generations to come."
Albert Pujols (Cardinals, 2001-11)
Possibly the most dominant Cardinal in the history of the franchise, Pujols rocketed on to the scene by capturing the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2001 and never looked back. He led the team to two world championships, captured three MVP Awards, and became the most prolific hitter in the history of baseball over his first 10 seasons.
Albert's departure has left some fans with bitter tastes in their mouths. But for 11 years, he was the premier player on the city's premier team and was seen as a pillar of the community to boot. Albert still calls St. Louis home and continues his charitable works through his St. Louis-based company.
Jackie Smith (Cardinals, 1963-76)
The football Cardinals had their share of legendary players, none of which may be regarded as highly as Jackie Smith. Regarded as one of the greatest tight ends of all time, Jackie was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994. His 480 career receptions, 7,918 yards, and 40 touchdowns in his career are all impressive totals for the 6-foot-4-inch man who doubled as the team's punter his first three years in the league. Jackie still resides in St. Louis, taking time to talk and mingle with fans when he is recognized as one of the most loved players in the history of the "Big Red."
Ozzie Smith (Cardinals, 1982-96)
The shortstop once known as "The Wizard of Oz" spent all but the first few years of his baseball career in St. Louis, winning many awards and eventually reaching the Hall of Fame. Ozzie is possibly best known for his fielding, which earned him 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards, 11 of which he earned as a Cardinal. His offense would eventually develop and he would reach 2,460 hits, 580 stolen bases, and a career .262 batting average. His iconic backflip as he took his position on the field during home openers and special events were crowd-pleasing displays of his acrobatic athleticism.
Kurt Warner (Rams, 1998-2003)
The story of Warner's rise from working at a grocery store to the Arena Football League to being thrust into the starting role at quarterback for the Rams is a popular one that has been retold many times. The love affair that he formed with the city of St. Louis continues today.
Warner's rise to stardom happened in St. Louis when Trent Green, the team's starer, went down injured before the 1999 season. The virtually unknown Warner took over and led the Rams team known as "The Greatest Show on Turf" to a Super Bowl victory. Individual accolades arrived in the form of his first MVP Award that season as well. He would lead the Rams back to the playoffs the following year, and back to the Super Bowl and another MVP Award in 2001.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Marshall Faulk
- Kurt Warner
- Dan Dierdorf