(Updated Dec. 8, 2015)
Jon Jay became the first Cardinals everyday center fielder in 46 years to have a flawless fielding season.
Jay completed the 2012 season without an error. He played 116 games, including 108 starts, in center field for the 2012 Cardinals, covering 993.1 innings.
Before Jay, the last regular center fielder to complete a season without an error for St. Louis was Curt Flood in 1966.
(Tony Scott, the Cardinals’ Opening Day center fielder in 1981, played 44 games in center for St. Louis that year without an error before he was traded to the Astros on June 7 for pitcher Joaquin Andujar. George Hendrick played the most games in center field for the 1981 Cardinals. Hendrick made one error in 51 games in center.)
(Orlando Palmeiro played 112 games, 65 as an outfield starter, without an error for the 2003 Cardinals. He played primarily in right field, but didn’t lead the Cardinals in games started at any of the three outfield positions.)
Before Jay, the last everyday Cardinals center fielder to make a bid for an errorless season was Ray Lankford. He made one error in 144 games played in center for the 1996 Cardinals.
Flood played center in 159 games covering 1,397.2 innings for the 1966 Cardinals without commiting an error.
Flood had become the Cardinals’ regular center fielder in 1958. At age 28, he was entering his prime heading into the 1966 season. Coach Dick Sisler called Flood “our key player.”
He was hitting .338 on June 10 before going into a prolonged slump (Flood finished with a .267 batting average but led St. Louis in RBI, with 78, and was second in hits at 167), but his outfield play never faltered.
In August, Dodgers catcher John Roseboro told The Sporting News, “Flood’s the greatest outfielder around now, even better than Willie Mays. Mays may be flashier with his basket catches, but that’s all.”
A month later, Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente rated Mays the best outfielder he had seen, but added that he had high regard for Flood and Pittsburgh center fielder Bill Virdon.
Asked the key to his flawless fielding, Flood told The Sporting News, “The big thing is to get to the ball. Catching it is no great problem.”
Reported The Sporting News: (Flood) has that rare knack of being able to get an amazing jump on the ball at the crack of the bat. A human fly, he has climbed numerous walls. He makes the diving catch, the parallel-to-the-wall catch. You name it, he’s made it.
Flood, Mays and Clemente were the National League outfielders who won Gold Glove awards for their 1966 play. Roseboro earned the award among NL catchers.
In acknowledging Flood’s errorless season, The Sporting News reported:
For the first few years of his career, Curt Flood of the Cardinals performed in the shadow of Willie Mays, the Giants’ great center fielder. Now, if anyone is casting a shadow on the other outfielders, it is Flood, who tied a major-league record in the 1966 season by going through the entire year without an error.
The speedy Redbird did not achieve his 1.000 percentage by safety-first baseball. Roaming far and wide, he handled more chances, 396, than any other flychaser in the circuit.