At midseason, Pujols became the first Cardinals' rookie since Luis Arroyo in 1955 to make the All-Star Game. He finished the season batting .329 (sixth in the league) with 194 hits (fifth in the league), 47 doubles (fifth in the league), 37 home runs and 112 runs. His 37 home runs led the Cardinals, topping Jim Edmonds's 30 and McGwire's 29. He was named the National League (NL) Silver Slugger Award winner for the third base position, and he finished fourth in NL Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting, behind Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez. He was unanimously named the NL Rookie of the Year after setting an NL rookie record with 130 RBI (fifth in the league) and becoming the fourth MLB rookie to hit .300 with 30 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBI.
In 157 games, Pujols hit 43 home runs (fourth in the league, behind Jim Thome, Richie Sexson and Bonds) and had 124 RBI (tied with Sexson for fourth and behind Preston Wilson, Gary Sheffield and Thome). He became the youngest player since Tommy Davis in 1962 to win the NL batting title after batting .359, and he led the league in runs (137), hits (212) and doubles (51). Pujols joined Rogers Hornsby as the only players in Cardinals' history to record more than 40 homers and 200 hits in the same season. Though his stellar play had Cardinals' fans chanting "M-V-P!" during home games as early as June, Pujols again finished second to Bonds in MVP voting. He won his second Silver Slugger Award and first Sporting News Player of the Year Award. Pujols' contributions helped the Cardinals rank second in batting average and third in home runs in the NL; however, the pitching staff posted a 4.60 ERA, which was below the league average, and the Cardinals missed the playoffs.
Pujols finished the season with a .331 average (third to Freddy Sanchez's .344 and Cabrera's .339), 177 hits, 33 doubles, 49 home runs (second to Ryan Howard's 58), 137 RBI (second to Howard, 149) and 119 runs scored (tied with Matt Holliday, Hanley Ramírez, and Alfonso Soriano for fifth). Of his 49 home runs, 20 accounted for a game-winning RBI, breaking Willie Mays' single-season record set in 1962. He finished second to Howard in MVP voting and won the NL Gold Glove Award for first base. He won his first of four consecutive Fielding Bible Awards for the first base position.
José Alberto Pujols Alcántara (/ˈpuːhoʊls/ POO-hohls, Spanish pronunciation: [puˈxols] ; born January 16, 1980) is a Dominican-American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played 11 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he was a three-time National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) (2005, 2008, 2009) and nine-time All-Star (2001, 2003–2010). Since joining the Angels in 2012, he has made one All-Star appearance, in 2015. A right-handed batter and thrower, Pujols stands 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighs 235 pounds (107 kg).
Pujols and the Cardinals set a deadline for the start of 2011 spring training for contract extension negotiations but failed to reach an agreement. After Pujols struggled in his first 30 games of the season in batting .231, he batted .316 with 30 home runs in his final 117 games. Against the Cubs, he hit consecutive extra-inning walk-off home runs on June 4 and 5 for the first time since Albert Belle in 1995. Carpenter noted after the game that Pujols' slump earlier in the year was over: "He continues to do great things, there's no doubt about it," he said. "The things that he's done the last few days have been just like the old Albert."
Pujols was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States in 1996. After one season of college baseball, he was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft. As a rookie for the Cardinals in 2001, he was unanimously voted the NL Rookie of the Year. Pujols played consistently for the Cardinals, contributing to two World Series championships in 2006 and 2011. After the 2011 season, Pujols became a free agent and signed a 10-year contract with the Angels.
Pujols was raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, mostly by his grandmother, America Pujols, and 10 of his uncles and aunts. He was an only child. His father, Bienvenido Pujols, was a softball pitcher, but he was also an alcoholic. Albert often had to take his father home when his father got drunk following games. Growing up, Pujols practiced baseball using limes for balls and a milk carton for a glove. Pujols, his father, and his grandmother emigrated in 1996 to Washington Heights in New York City, where Albert witnessed a shooting at a bodega. Partly because of the shooting, they moved to Independence, Missouri, two months later to join some relatives.
Pujols and his wife are devout Evangelical Christians. He became a Christian on November 13, 1998, influenced in part by Deidre and his grandmother. During his tenure with the Cardinals, Pujols and his family attended West County Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Wildwood, Missouri.
Pujols played baseball at Fort Osage High School in Independence and was named an All-State athlete twice. As a senior, he was walked 55 times intentionally, but he still hit eight home runs in 33 at bats. One of his home runs travelled 450 feet (140 m). After graduating from high school a semester early in December 1998, he was given a baseball scholarship to Maple Woods Community College. Pujols hit a grand slam and turned an unassisted triple play in the first game of his only college season. Playing shortstop, he batted .461 with 22 home runs as a freshman before deciding to enter the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft.
Pujols began his minor league career in 2000 playing third base with the Peoria Chiefs of the single-A Midwest League. He batted .324 with 128 hits, 32 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs and 84 RBI, in 109 games. He finished second in the league in batting (behind Ryan Gripp), tied for ninth in doubles (with Andrew Beattie and Justin Leone), tied for fourth in triples (with six other players), tied for sixth in home runs (with Shawn McCorkle and Lance Burkhart) and sixth in RBI. He was voted the league's Most Valuable Player and named to the All-Star team. Pujols also played 21 games with the Potomac Cannons in the high-A Carolina League that year, batting .284 with 23 hits, eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBI. He finished the 2000 season with the Memphis Redbirds in the AAA Pacific Coast League (PCL), and after appearing in three regular season games with them, he batted .367 in the playoffs and was named the postseason Most Valuable Player (MVP) as the Redbirds won their first PCL title.
Pujols married his wife, Deidre, on January 1, 2000. They have five children: Isabella (Deidre's daughter from a previous relationship), Albert Jr., Sophia, Ezra and Esther Grace. During the offseason, they live in St. Louis. Albert and his wife are supporters of people with Down syndrome, a condition Isabella was born with. In 2007, Pujols became a U.S. citizen, scoring a perfect 100 on his citizenship test.
After playing several positions in 2001, Pujols spent most of 2002 in left field. He began the season batting cleanup but was moved in May to the third spot in the lineup, where he remained for the rest of his Cardinals career. Pujols hit his 30th home run and 100th RBI of the season in a 5–4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in August, making him the sixth Cardinal to have back-to-back 30-home-run seasons and the second Cardinal (the other was Ray Jablonski) to start his career with back-to-back 100-RBI seasons. The following month, Pujols hit a game-winning two-run single against Pete Munro in a 9–3 victory over the Houston Astros that gave the Cardinals the NL Central title. Pujols finished the year batting .314 (seventh in the NL) with 185 hits (tied for fourth in the NL), 40 doubles (eighth in the NL), 34 home runs (10th in the NL), 118 runs scored (second in the NL to Sosa's 122) and 127 RBI (second in the NL). He became the first player in major league history to hit over .300 with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in his first two seasons. Pujols finished second in MVP voting to Bonds, becoming the first Cardinal since Stan Musial to finish in the top four in MVP voting for consecutive seasons. At the end of the 2002 season, Chris Haft of MLB.com called him "an outstanding hitter."
During spring training in 2001, incumbent first baseman Mark McGwire said to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa that if he did not promote Pujols to the major league roster, "it might be one of the worst moves you make in your career." La Russa later recounted the "myth" that Pujols only made the Opening Day roster in 2001 because Bobby Bonilla was injured. According to La Russa, he and the rest of Cardinals management were impressed enough by Pujols that they decided to promote him to the big league club even before Bonilla's injury. Although the team did not require Pujols to fill any particular position, the Cardinals activated him to the Opening Day roster, and he started all season at either third base, right field, left field, or first base.
Five Cardinals were named to the All-Star Game in 2003 while Pujols led the NL in votes. It was the first of eight straight seasons that Pujols would reach the All-Star Game. From July 12 to August 16, Pujols had a 30-game hitting streak, tied for the second-longest in Cardinals' history with Musial and behind only Rogers Hornsby's 33-game streak. On July 20, Pujols hit his 100th career home run, a game-winner in a 10–7 victory over the Dodgers. He became the fourth major leaguer to hit his 100th home run in his third season, along with Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews and Joe DiMaggio. Pujols hit his 114th home run on September 20 in a game against the Astros, which tied him with Kiner for most home runs by a player in his first three seasons.
Pujols is in the top 10 in several Cardinals' statistics. He is second to Musial in doubles (455), home runs (445) and RBI (1,329). He is seventh in games (1,705), seventh in batting average (.328), third in runs scored (1,291, behind Musial and Lou Brock), and fourth in hits (2,073, behind Musial, Brock and Hornsby). He also is in the top 10 in several single-season Cardinals' records. His 137 runs scored in 2003 are tied for seventh with Tommy McCarthy, his 51 doubles in 2003 and 2004 are tied with Musial for sixth, he holds five of the top 10 Cardinals' home run totals, and his 137 RBI in 2006 are tied for seventh with Jim Bottomley, Johnny Mize and Joe Torre.
After receiving many awards in his first three seasons, Pujols was rewarded monetarily for his accomplishments on February 20, 2004, when he signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension with a $16 million club option for 2011 with no-trade provisions. He was moved to first base in 2004 after the Cardinals traded Tino Martinez in the offseason. On June 16, he hit a walk-off home run against Reds pitcher Mike Matthews in the 10th inning of a 4–3 victory.
In 2005, Albert and Deidre Pujols launched the Pujols Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to their "commitment to faith, family and others." The organization promotes awareness of Down syndrome and works to support those who have it and their families, aids the poor in the Dominican Republic, and supports people with disabilities and/or life-threatening illnesses. Among other activities, the foundation hosts events for people with Down syndrome. The foundation gave the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis the resources to open an office and hire staff. In 2009, the Albert Pujols Wellness Center for Adults with Down Syndrome opened in Chesterfield, Missouri; Pujols was present at the opening on November 18. The foundation hosts an annual "All Stars Basketball Game" with down syndrome players at Missouri Baptist University.
In 2006, Pujols and the Hanon family opened Pujols 5 Westport Grill, a restaurant located in Westport Plaza of Maryland Heights, Missouri. A 10-foot, 1,100-lb. statue of Pujols was dedicated on November 2, 2011, outside the restaurant. An anonymous donor commissioned sculptor Harry Weber to create the statue, which belongs to the Pujols Family Foundation. After Pujols signed with the Angels, the restaurant was renamed the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Grill.
Over two games in April 2006, Pujols hit home runs in four consecutive plate appearances, making him the 20th player to accomplish the feat. Pujols maintained after the game that he was more concerned with winning than the numbers: "I don't look at numbers," he said. "I don't know. I didn't know anything about [the record] until you guys brought it up. Because that's not me. I don't get locked in on numbers. I don't get locked in on anything like that. I get locked in on seeing the ball and helping my team out to win and hopefully doing some damage out there."
Pujols had three hits and four RBI, including his 1,000th career hit (a home run against Jerome Williams), as the Cardinals defeated the Cubs 9–3 on April 21, 2006. On June 4, he was placed on the disabled list (DL) for the first time in his career with a strained right oblique that kept him out for three weeks.
In 2008, Pujols teamed up with St. Louis Soccer United, a group looking to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to the St. Louis area. However, the group's bid for a franchise was unsuccessful, and a USL team (Saint Louis FC) was formed.
On September 11, in a 3–2 loss to the Cubs, Pujols hit his 100th RBI of the season against Rich Harden, making him the third player in major league history to start his career with eight seasons of at least 100 RBI (along with Simmons and Williams). He regretted that the milestone came in a loss, saying, "I wish it would have come with a great win. It would have been more special." In 148 games in 2008, Pujols batted .357 (second to Chipper Jones's .364 average) with 187 hits (third, behind Reyes's 204 and David Wright's 189), 44 doubles (tied with Stephen Drew and Aramis Ramírez for fourth in the league behind Berkman and Nate McLouth's 46 and Corey Hart's 45), 37 home runs (tied with Ryan Braun and Ryan Ludwick for fourth in the league behind Howard's 48, Dunn's 40, and Delgado's 38), 116 RBI (fourth, behind Howard's 146, Wrights 124 and Adrián González's 119) and 100 runs scored. He grounded into a National League-leading 27 double plays. Pujols won his second NL MVP Award, and he won the Silver Slugger Award for the fourth time in his career. He was named The Sporting News Player of the Year for the second time in his career. For his work off the field, he was named the 2008 winner of the Roberto Clemente Award. He considered having Tommy John surgery after the season but underwent nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow instead to ease discomfort.
Pujols has earned praise from many of his fellow players and coaches. In 2008, he was named the most feared hitter in baseball in a poll of all 30 MLB managers. La Russa has called him "the best player I've ever managed." Votto referred to him as "one of the greatest hitters of all time." Larry Walker called him "a great hitter," and Brendan Ryan said, "He's the best there is." Fernando Viña said, while Pujols was with the Cardinals, "He's the face of the Cardinals."
In 2009, Pujols donated money to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Tournament, allowing the event to occur after a sponsor backed out. On August 28, 2010, Pujols and La Russa attended Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally in Washington, D.C., after being assured by Beck that the rally was not political. During the rally, Pujols was presented with a medal for his off-the-field efforts.
Through 2018, Pujols ranked in the top 10 players in major league history in four career statistical categories: home runs (fourth), runs batted in (third), total bases (fifth), and doubles (fifth). He holds the all-time career record for Grounding Into a Double Play with 399. Pujols is also ranked in the top 10 in various other statistics, such as errors committed, assists as a first baseman, at-bats per strikeout, walked intentionally, and extra base hits. At the end of the 2018 season, he ranked among active players ninth in batting average (.302), second in slugging percentage (.554), and fourth in on-base plus slugging (.936). Through 2018, he ranked first among active players in doubles, home runs, RBI and runs scored. Pujols has a .994 fielding percentage at first base through 2018 (13th among active first basemen), led active first basemen in career errors with 106, and set the major league single-season record for assists with 185 in 2009.
On April 25, 2009, Pujols picked up his 1,000th career RBI with a 441-foot grand slam against David Patton in an 8–2 victory over the Cubs. "I hit that ball as good as I can hit a ball," he said after the game. On July 3, he hit his 10th career grand slam against Weathers in a 7–4 victory over the Reds, breaking Musial's record for most grand slams by a Cardinal. The grand slam was also his 350th career home run, making him the third-fastest player to reach the milestone, behind Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr.. He received the highest number of votes in NL history for the All-Star Game that year.
For April 2010, Pujols earned his first Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month Award. He batted .348, 1.270 OPS, three home runs and 14 RBI with runners on base. Further, in situations with his team leading by one run, tied, or having the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck after the seventh inning ("late-and-close"), he batted .583 (7-for-12) with a home run, two doubles, three RBI and five runs scored.
On June 29, 2010, in an 8–0 victory over the Diamondbacks, Pujols hit five RBI and hit two home runs against Dontrelle Willis for his 37th career multihomer game, which tied Musial's franchise record for multihomer games. "It's pretty special," he said of tying Musial. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to be compared sometimes with him."
On April 22, 2014, Pujols hit his 499th and 500th home runs of his career off of Taylor Jordan in a game versus the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Pujols became the 26th player ever to reach the 500 home run mark, as well as the third youngest to reach it. He also became the first player to hit career home runs 499 and 500 in the same game. Nationals Park is the same ballpark where he hit his 400th career home run in the 2010 season. Participating in the longest game of the year in MLB, and the longest in the history of Angel Stadium, Pujols ended a 19-inning, 6:31 contest against the Red Sox with a solo home run for a 5–4 final score. It was also his first walk-off home run as an Angel and first since June 2011. On September 6, against the Minnesota Twins, Pujols collected his 2,500th career hit, a two-run go-ahead double off of Jared Burton in the 9th inning. He also passed the 1,500 run mark in the same game. In the process, he became the fifth player in major league history with 2,500 hits and 500 home runs while maintaining a .310 lifetime batting average (the others were Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, and Manny Ramirez). For the season, he batted .272 and grounded into an American League-leading 28 double plays. After the 2014 season, Pujols led all active players in doubles, with 561.
On August 19, 2013, Pujols was ruled out for the remainder of the 2013 season after suffering a foot injury. Pujols had by far the worst season of his career in 2013, failing to play at least 100 games for the first time in his career. Pujols also posted career worsts in hits, runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Overall in 99 games, Pujols batted .258 with 101 hits, 19 doubles, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, and 49 runs scored.
In August 2013, former Cardinals player Jack Clark accused Pujols of using performance-enhancing drugs on his radio show on WGNU in St. Louis. Clark served as the Cardinals' hitting coach during the early part of Pujols's tenure in St. Louis. On the morning of August 9, Pujols issued a statement adamantly denying that he had ever taken PEDs. He denounced Clark's allegations as "irresponsible and reckless," and threatened to sue Clark and WGNU over the allegations. Partly due to legal threats from Pujols, InsideSTL Enterprises, which owns WGNU's weekday airtime under a time brokerage agreement, cut ties with Clark. On October 4, 2013, Pujols filed a defamation lawsuit against Clark. In response, Clark challenged Pujols to both take polygraph tests to resolve who is telling the truth. However, on February 10, 2014, Clark apologized and retracted his accusations against Pujols, saying he had "no knowledge whatsoever" that Pujols ever used PEDs. "During a heated discussion on air, I misspoke," Clark said. In return, Pujols dropped the suit.
After batting .303/.395/.737 with 13 home runs in June 2015, Pujols was named AL Player of the Month for the first time and seventh overall monthly award. His home run total led the major leagues and 73 total bases tied Manny Machado for first in the AL. Remarkably, his batting average on balls in play was .218, significantly lower than the league average of about .300.
On April 30, 2016, Pujols became the 85th player to make 10,000 career plate appearances. On May 2, Pujols became the 20th player all-time to amass 5,000 career total bases. On August 17, Pujols joined Barry Bonds as the only other player to be intentionally walked over 300 times. Playing the Toronto Blue Jays on August 25, he reached 100 RBI for the 13th time in his career, the fifth player to do so.
On June 3, 2017, Pujols became the ninth player in Major League history to hit at least 600 home runs, when he hit a grand slam off of Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins. He was the fourth-youngest player to achieve the feat (behind Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron), and the first to hit a grand slam for his 600th home run. On August 10, Pujols became the 37th player all-time to amass 11,000 career plate appearances.
In 2018 he batted .245/.289/.411 with 19 home runs, and 64 RBIs (matching the lowest season total of his career). He had the slowest baserunning sprint speed of all major league players for the second consecutive year, at 22.2 feet/second. He was the sixth-oldest player in the American League.
Pujols was, at the height of his career, a highly regarded hitter who showed a "combination of contact hitting ability, patience and raw power." He is a six-time Silver Slugger who has twice led the NL in home runs, and he has also led the NL once each in batting average, doubles, and RBIs. He is significantly above-average in career regular season batting average (.299), walk rate (10.8 percent), and Isolated Power (.249). He holds the MLB all-time record for most times grounded into a double play (395). With 14 seasons of 100 or more RBI produced, he is one of only four players in MLB history to have topped 2,000 RBI in his career, surpassing Alex Rodriguez for third place on the official all-time list during the 2020 season. Pujols collected his 3,000th career hit in 2018, becoming the 32nd player in MLB history to do so. Pujols also became the fourth member of the 3,000-hit club to also hit 600 home runs, joining Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Alex Rodriguez.
In 2019 he batted .244/.305/.430. Pujols had the lowest line drive percentage of all major league hitters (15.3%). He had the second-slowest sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.5 feet/second. He was the third-oldest player in the American League, behind Ichiro Suzuki (who retired in March) and Fernando Rodney.
In 2019, Pujols was the third-oldest player in the American League. On May 9, he became the fourth player in major league history to record 2,000 RBIs, hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in a 13–0 win. A Tigers fan caught the 2,000 RBI ball but refused to turn it back over to MLB officials, stating that he wanted to sleep on it before making a decision. The MLB in response refused to authenticate the ball. The fan, Ely Hydes, eventually decided he wanted to return the ball to Pujols, who in turn refused, stating that the fan should either keep the ball or donate it to the MLB Hall of Fame.
In 2020 Pujols batted .224/.270/.395 with 6 home runs and 25 RBIs in 152 at bats. He had the slowest sprint speed of all major league players, at 22.0 feet/second.