WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Eric Schmitt spoke on the Senate floor to honor Cardinals great Adam Wainwright following his retirement, noting his lasting impact not only the organization, but on the city of St. Louis:
Read the speech, as prepared for delivery:
Mr./Madam President, I rise to honor a St. Louis great who, although he’s thrown his last pitch for the Cardinals, has left a lasting impact on Cardinals Nation.
In 2003, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Adam Wainwright, Ray King, and Jason Marquis in exchange for J.D. Drew. Little did we know the impact that that trade would have on the Cardinals – the crown jewel of the National League – for years to come. Wainwright, or Waino as we call him, just recently notched his 200th win, a huge milestone (which may not be achieved again given the game now), and retired from baseball in front of thousands and thousands of adoring fans. But his career was more than just 200 wins – it was 18+ years of just nasty curveballs and heart-stopping wins, years of camaraderie and postseason excellence, and countless memories for all of us Cardinals fans.
In his first full season in the majors with the Cardinals, Waino pitched in 61 games and boasted an impressive 3.12 ERA. And it was in his first full season that he showed the ice in his veins – he became the closer at the very end of the season because of an injury to Jason Isringhausen. It was bottom of the 9th inning in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Wainwright on the mound, bases loaded, the mighty Carlos Beltran at the plate. Beltran had historically destroyed Cardinals’ pitching going back to his days with the Astros. After notching two strikes, Waino kicked back and delivered a knockout curveball that Beltran stared at all the way into Yadier Molina’s glove – strike three, game over, series over. It was in that moment that the Cardinals, and the city of St. Louis, knew they had a star. On a personal note, I know exactly where I was at that moment, as I’m sure all Cardinals fans do…
He would go on to secure the final out in the 2006 World Series with a strikeout by way of his signature 12-6 curveball, otherwise known as Uncle Charlie, becoming the only player to close out the World Series in the 21st century as a rookie and delivering a World Series championship we hadn’t had since 1982.
Bolstered by his battery-mate and self-professed “brother”, the legendary Yadier Molina, Wainwright delivered countless gems and showed up in the most critical moments. Wainwright tossed 7 innings and won his first MLB start against the Astros in April of 2007. While he was injured during the Cardinals story-book run in 2011, he was a monumental presence in the clubhouse then and for over 18 years. He hit a home run on the first pitch of his first at bat. He pitched a complete game in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the 2013 NLDS, fanning six and catapulting the Cardinals further into October history. During a 2022 season that saw the return of the mighty Albert Pujols and the end of the Yadier Molina era, Waino and Yadi set the all-time record for most starts as a battery at 325. Two of the most beloved St. Louis Cardinals, starting as mere teammates, cap an incredible year as best friends and St. Louis legends.
Although this season hasn’t been everything that Cardinals fans wanted, we at least got to see Waino reach one more milestone – 200 wins – in his farewell season.
A three-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, two-time Gold Glover, and a Silver Slugger, Wainwright’s success on the mound is well-documented. But aside from all of his accomplishments on the field, he also shined as an ambassador for the city of St. Louis and the sport of baseball. The 2020 Roberto Clemente Award winner, which is given to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, and community involvement, Wainwright had an unrivaled passion for our community and helping others. He founded a nonprofit in 2013, Big League Impact, which has since raised over $8 million for a host of charitable causes and foundations.
He has served as the unrelentingly optimistic beating heart of Cardinals teams that have seen stunning victories and heartbreaking losses. Despite growing up in Georgia, Waino truly embodies what it means to be a St. Louis Cardinal, and has served brilliantly as an ambassador for the beloved franchise.
The Cardinals are a franchise steeped in a rich history, and some of the greatest players of all time have proudly worn the birds on the bat. It’s a franchise that’s won more world series than any other team, other than the Yankees. I’ve been blessed to see many of those greats over the years. Wainwright is undoubtedly among those greats, not only for his prowess on the field, but for his philanthropy and dedication to St. Louis off the field.
I think I speak for all of Cardinals Nation when I say: Thank you Waino, it’s been a pleasure watching you all these years, congrats on a fantastic career, and good luck in your next chapter of your life.
I yield back.