José Alberto Pujols Alcántara
was born January 16, 1980, in Santo
Domingo, Dominican Republic. Albert
moved to the United States in 1996,
and at the age of 16, attended Fort
Osage High School in Independence,
Missouri. While there, Albert was
twice awarded all-state honors in
baseball. He earned a baseball scholarship
and attended Maple Woods Community
College in Kansas City where he
played one year before being selected
in the 13th round of the 1999 free
agent draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
only one full season in the minor
leagues, Albert stormed onto the
big league scene in 2001, capturing
National League Rookie of the Year
honors unanimously that year. He
set NL rookie records for RBI, total
bases and base hits and batted .329
with 37 HRs and 130 RBI.
In 2002, Albert
batted .314 with 34 HRs and 127
RBI and finished as runner-up for
the NL Most Valuable Player award.
Since his rookie season, Pujols
has never failed to finish outside
the top four in MVP voting.
Albert won his
first batting title in 2003 with
a .359 mark, also leading the league
in hits, runs scored and doubles.
He again finished second in the
NL MVP voting.
In 2004, Pujols
led the Cardinals into the teams
first World series since 1987. That
year, St. Louis had the best record
in baseball and Pujols, who hit
.331 with 123 RBI and a career-high
46 HRs during the regular season,
was named MVP of the NLCS.
the first of his two National League
Most Valuable Player awards in 2005.
He finished the season among the
NL's top five in all three Triple
Crown categories. One of the defining
moments in his career took place
in the postseason that year during
Game 5 of the NLCS. Facing elimination
against Houston, Pujols hit a dramatic
two-out, three-run ninth-inning
homer off Astros closer Brad Lidge
to give St. Louis a dramatic come-from-behind
victory at Minute Maid Park.
that year, Albert and his wife,
Deidre, announced the formation
of the Pujols Family Foundation.
In 2006, Albert
began the season establishing a
new Major League record for most
home runs hit in the month of April,
14. Just over a month later, an
injury placed him on the disabled
list for the first time in his career.
At that point, June 3, Albert already
had 25 HRs and 65 RBI. Battling
injuries the remainder of the season,
Pujols finished with a .331 average,
a .431 on-base percentage and a
.671 slugging percentage. He finished
second in the league in HRs with
49 and RBI with 137 and was, once
again, runner-up in the MVP voting.
limped into post season play that
year with a record just over .500,
but thanks in great part to Pujols
leadership, the Cardinals caught
fire, beating the New York Mets
in a dramatic seven-game NLCS and
then capturing the franchises 10th
World Series title, beating the
Detroit Tigers in five games. And,
on top of his many offensive achievements
in 2006, that year also saw the
Redbird first baseman capture his
first Gold Glove Award.
In 2007, Albert
earned his sixth straight trip to
the All Star Game, finishing the
season with a .327 average, 32 HRs
and 103 RBI, marking the first time
in baseball history a player had
surpassed .300/30HR/100RBI for seven
consecutive seasons at the beginning
of a career.
Albert won his
second Most Valuable Player award
at the end of the 2008 season. In
addition to his usual numbers with
30+ HRs/.300+ avg./100+ RBI, Albert
also achieved two milestone accomplishments
during that year. He clubbed his
300th career home run on July 4,
and his 1,500th career hit on August
30. Following the 2008 campaign,
Pujols became the second player
in history to win the MVP and Robert
Clemente Award, the latter given
for accomplishments off the baseball
field, in the same year.
Albert began the
2009 season as the NL Player of
the Month for April, the fourth
time in his career he had been so
honored. At the All Star break,
he led the Major Leagues in both
HRs (32) and RBI (87) and was the
leading vote-getter for the All
Star game, held in St. Louis for
the first time since 1966. He became
the 7th player in baseball history
to reach the 30 HR mark before July
and tied a Cardinals franchise record
with his ninth career grand slam
on June 21 at Kansas City.