When you play 21 Major League seasons, appear in three World Series and make 10 All-Star teams, you're going to accumulate some memorable moments. When you sprinkle 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs over the course of a career like that, there will be even more.
With Pujols being designated for assignment by the Angels on Thursday and putting his future as a big league player in doubt, here is a look back at 10 of the most memorable moments from Pujols' incredible career.
Sept. 20, 2003: Buddy Walk
Down syndrome is a cause dear to Pujols' heart, as his daughter has the condition. And Pujols always delivered on "Buddy Walk" day, a day to raise Down syndrome awareness. In this game, he hit a 13th-inning walk-off homer against Houston's Dan Miceli, ending a game the Cardinals never led before that moment.
By the way, we could also have gone with Sept. 3, 2006, when he hit three homers on Buddy Walk day in a needed win against the Pirates.
July 20, 2004: The comeback
Few people have had a better day at the plate than Pujols had on July 20, 2004. Maybe not even Pujols himself. Start with the circumstances: Facing their fiercest rivals, the Cubs, the Cardinals fell behind, 7-1. They roared back for an 11-8 win at the Friendly Confines, thanks in large part to Pujols.
He went 5-for-5 with four runs, five RBIs and three homers, capped by a two-run tiebreaker off of LaTroy Hawkins in the ninth. It was the best regular-season game of his career, and it also just about ended the NL Central race, even though the calendar still read late July.
Oct. 17, 2005: The train tracks
If there is one signature moment of Pujols' career, this is likely it. Down to their final out of the season in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series and trailing, 4-2, against lights-out closer Brad Lidge, the Cardinals scraped a couple of baserunners to bring Pujols to the plate. The Astros needed just one out to reach their first World Series, and Minute Maid Park was deafening.
They did not get that out. Pujols launched a titanic home run to left field, landing on the train tracks well above the Crawford Boxes, to send the series back to St. Louis for one more game at old Busch Stadium. Houston won that game and advanced, but Pujols did all he could.
Oct. 21, 2006: Getting things going
Pujols' first trip to the World Series in 2004 was quick and frustrating. There was to be no disappointment the second time around. In a series where the Cards were heavy underdogs (one columnist famously predicted "Tigers in three"), Pujols hit a two-run homer off Detroit superstar Justin Verlander in the third inning. It was an opposite-field laser beam that turned a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead, and St. Louis never looked back en route to its first World Series title in 24 years.
Oct. 22, 2011: No mercy
The 2011 World Series is remembered largely for its amazing Game 6, but some of the earlier games were not so competitive. Take Game 3 in Arlington, which may as well be known as the "Pujols Game."
The slugger went 5-for-6 with four runs, six RBIs and a historic three home runs. With his third long ball in the 16-7 win against the Rangers, Pujols joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players in history to hit three homers in a World Series game. That Pablo Sandoval joined the group a year later hardly diminishes the accomplishment.
April 22, 2014: Five-hundred
With a brilliant peak, two rings and three MVP Awards, Pujols' ticket to Cooperstown is likely already punched. But baseball loves round numbers, and there aren't many more special than 500 home runs (save for 600 home runs).
He reached the milestone on April 22, 2014, with a monster shot to left-center off of the Nationals' Taylor Jordan. He became the 26th player to reach 500 with his two-run homer.
June 3, 2017: No. 600, in grand style
Five-hundred home runs is special, but 600 is truly rarefied air, as Pujols became only the ninth player in MLB history to reach that milestone. Not only did he accomplish the feat at home at Angel Stadium, but he did so by walloping a grand slam -- what a way to celebrate. He was the first player to gain entry to the 600-homer club by going deep with the sacks packed.
It wasn't exactly Pujols' most emphatic hit, but he wasn't complaining. When he reached out and poked a pitch from Seattle's Mike Leake to right field for a soft single, it gave him 3,000 career knocks. Not only is that a hallowed mark on its own, but Pujols became only the fourth player in MLB history to combine it with 600 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez.
June 21, 2019: Homecoming
Even with Interleague Play, Pujols' Angels did not travel to St. Louis in his first seven seasons with the team. So when the Halos finally made it to Busch Stadium in 2019, it was a long time coming.
If there once were some hard feelings on both sides regarding Pujols' departure after the 2011 season, that all went out the window. Not only did the team pay tribute to its former star, but Cardinals fans showered him with ovations at every opportunity. When Pujols stepped to the plate at Busch for the first time in another uniform, and embraced his good friend Yadier Molina, there were chills. Pujols even managed to beat out a rare infield single. The next afternoon, when he ripped a shot into the left field bullpen, it prompted Cardinals fans to demand a curtain call from a visiting player.
Sept. 13-18, 2020: Catches and passes Mays
Merely joining the exclusive 600-homer club wasn't enough for Pujols. He hit career homer No. 659 in early August, but had to wait over a month to finally tie the great Willie Mays, considered by some to be the best player in history, with blast No. 660 on a Sunday afternoon at Colorado's Coors Field. Mays hit his final blast in his 22nd big league season, while Pujols reached 660 in his 20th. Five days later, Pujols passed Mays by hitting his 661st and 662nd big flies against the Rangers. Pujols hit five more homers in April 2021 before the Angels let him go, putting him at 667 for his career.
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