Enos Slaughter did it. So did Stan Musial. So did Terry Pendleton and Ray Lankford and Brian Jordan.
Throwing Stan Musial into any statistical grouping of St. Louis Cardinals players is going to skew the sample considerably, but there is an obvious logic to believing that a player who begins his Major League career with a multi-hit game will be a good player. After all, if a player can hit the ground running, that’s an impressive head start on most players. One hit can be a fluke–say, when Patrick Wisdom reached first base during MLB debut last Sunday on an infield squibber that just happened to reach the exact right location of the Kansas City Royals infield–but if one gets a second hit–say, when Patrick Wisdom got an actual, MLB-caliber hit to the outfield to drive in his first MLB run later in the game–it lessens the chances of randomness at play.
Since play-by-play records originated in 1908, 35 St. Louis Cardinals players have had multiple hits in their Major League debut. Patrick Wisdom was #35, unsurprisingly, but six others have achieved the feat in the 21st century. So let’s marvel at what level of predictive quality this demonstrated with regard to long-term Major League success. While Patrick Wisdom isn’t exactly considered a blue-chip prospect, did his performance on Sunday hint at something worth monitoring going forward?
1. Bo Hart–June 19, 2003: This one holds a special place in my heart, as it was the second Cardinals away game I ever attended. In the first, second baseman Miguel Cairo was hit by a pitch and had to be removed from the game. In the second, I showed up to Miller Park and learned of the existence of Bodhi J. Hart. I wasn’t a prospect hound, but I wans’t not a prospect hound, so to see a starting player for my favorite team who was a complete unknown was unusual. But Hart made himself known, doubling in his first career plate appearance in the second inning (and later scoring) and in the fifth inning, hitting a two-out triple to score Kerry Robinson and Joe Girardi. You couldn’t get a more 2003 St. Louis PA than Bo Hart driving in Kerry Robinson and Joe Girardi if you’d thrown Nelly, Chingy, and J-Kwon into the game instead. The Milwaukee Brewers fans near me were resigned to the general mediocrity of their team but were nevertheless befuddled that it wasn’t Albert Pujols or Scott Rolen but some unathletic looking middle infielder doing the damage. Hart had a magical 2003 run, and came up again in 2004 to less unanimous results, and thus concluded his MLB career.
2. Yadier Molina–June 3, 2004: Starting at catcher and batting seventh at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mike Matheny’s heir apparent was very much not a major offensive threat in the early stage of his career, but in his debut, following a pop-up in his first at-bat, Molina singled off Oliver Perez, who later started another notable game in Yadier Molina’s career, in the fifth inning. In his next PA, this time with the Cardinals holding a 2-0 lead, Molina doubled to lead off the seventh inning, later scoring the game’s third run on a Woody Williams sacrifice fly. Molina, of course, went on to be one of the game’s best at throwing out runners, handling young pitchers from behind the plate, and inciting blind hatred from rivals. He is a first-ballot Cardinals Hall of Famer and, if the Gods of Baseball Trolling do their job, a first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Famer as well.
3. John Gall–July 26, 2005: The 105-win 2004 Cardinals were defined by MVP-caliber seasons from three separate players and several other fantastic individual seasons; the 100-win 2005 Cardinals were defined by things like Abraham Nunez filling in admirably over a large chunk of the season for Scott Rolen and John Gall recording 15.4% of his career hits and 33.3% of his career runs in his MLB debut. In what turned out to be the lone multi-hit game of his career, the left fielder batted fifth at Petco Park against the San Diego Padres and in his first plate appearance, he doubled off Woody Williams, the man who pitched for the Cardinals during the last multi-hit debut game. He later scored the game’s first run. Following a fourth inning reach-on-error, Gall singled in his third career plate appearance, later scoring on a So Taguchi single. Although John Gall had easily the least distinguished career of the six players before Wisdom to record two hits in his debut in the 21st century, his two runs did make the difference in a 4-2 victory, and frankly, a 99-win Cardinals team just doesn’t quite sound as cool, even if it’s effectively the same thing.
4. Colby Rasmus–April 7, 2009: Unlike the previous three examples, all of whom were midseason call-ups, the much-hyped Cardinals prospect made his debut in the second game of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Starting in right field, Rasmus grounded out in his first PA, but in his second, he singled off future Cardinals Spring Training invite Ian Snell to lead off the third inning. The next batter, Albert Pujols, homered to deep left field to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead. The next inning, with two outs and nobody on, Rasmus tallied his second career hit, another single, which prompted a mini-rally which eventually resulted in Rasmus scoring his second career run on a Khalil Greene double. And for good measure, in the fifth inning, Rasmus walked. While Colby Rasmus didn’t quite live up to the monumental hype surrounding him, and his acrimonious split with the team at the 2011 trade deadline has sullied his reputation in St. Louis a bit, he did receive Rookie of the Year votes in 2009 while posting a 3.6 Wins Above Replacement season in 2010, good for fourth on the team.
5. Tony Cruz–May 24, 2011: Backup to Yadier Molina, by 2011, was a largely uneventful position, and when Gerald Laird went to the Disabled List, it was Tony Cruz who was brought up for the team’s trip to San Diego. In the second game of a series at Petco Park, Cruz batted seventh (ahead of Daniel Descalso and Kyle McClellan, in case you’re wondering how that happened), and in the top of the second, off Aaron Harang, Cruz singled. He grounded out in his next plate appearance, but in the seventh inning, with the Cardinals down 2-1, he led off the frame with a double. While he was later tagged out on a fielder’s choice, the Cardinals did equalize in the inning, and in the top of the ninth, with the game tied 2-2 and with All-Star closer Heath Bell on the mound, Cruz led things off with a single. In the 21st century, Tony Cruz is the only Cardinal to record three hits in his MLB debut. Cruz was generally not a great Major League player, but he did manage a surprisingly long run as Yadier Molina’s backup, holding the position from 2012 through 2015.
6. Matt Adams–May 20, 2012: He wasn’t Rasmus, but there was a level of hype with Matt Adams that wasn’t the case with a Bo Hart, John Gall, or Tony Cruz. The power-hitting first baseman made his debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, batting seventh (once again, ahead of Daniel Descalso and the pitcher, though this time it was Kyle Lohse). In the second inning, with Yadier Molina on first, Matt Adams notched a base hit in his debut PA, and in the sixth, once again with Yadier Molina on first base, Matt Adams once again managed a single (both were off Chad Billingsley), though this time Molina was tagged out going for third base. Of the seven multi-hit debuts this century, Adams was the only player whose team did not win the game. Adams played sporadically at the MLB level in 2012, though in 2013, he became a valued bench bat and spot starter, and from 2014 through 2016, he was the team’s primary starting first baseman.
Only time will tell where Patrick Wisdom is grouped when looking at these players, and while he probably won’t be Yadier Molina, the odds are low that he becomes John Gall, either.