Consider this: We might look back on the 2011 "Best of St. Louis" issue as the last ever to contain the "Best Sports Figure Not Named Pujols" category, a mainstay that dates all the way back to 2007. It's a sobering thought indeed. But it presents a suitable occasion to pause and ponder what brought us here, and what the future might hold. Over the years the St. Louis Cardinals have acquired a luxurious patina of iconic status, particularly when viewed through the eyes of the local media and fanbase. It was not always this way: Who coined the term Cardinal Nation, and when? What about Best Fans in Baseball? But we digress. The fact is that the Cardinals franchise itself has done a remarkable job, not only of embracing that image (who wouldn't?) but of tending to it, burnishing it with painstaking care and marketing it (to immensely profitable ends). And at the core of the ballclub's celebrated identity is one man: The man. Stan the Man. Stan Musial is a living symbol of all that's right and good about the Cardinals, about St. Louis, about baseball, about sports, and on and on. Without Stan Musial, there would be no Albert Pujols — at least not the Albert Pujols we have come to revere. Here's the kicker, though: Pujols knows this. And that, more than any other single factor, all but guarantees that he — and this "Best of St. Louis" category — will remain in St. Louis for many years to come.
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