Puljos leaving? St. Louis fretting

Albert Pujols

For the past 11 years, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has slugged his way into the record books, and into the hearts of baseball-crazed fans of St. Louis.

He may be baseball's most feared hitter but, notes "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell, Pujols is also the most beloved man in St. Louis for his charitable and humanitarian work off the diamond.

And even though he has his team back in the World Series, Cards fans are worried that he may be just days from ending his career with the team, since his contract expires at the end of the season.

Since entering the majors in 2001, Pujols has dominated his sport, accomplishing something no player in history ever has -- batting over .300, with more than 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in in each of the first 10 years of his career.

Even more impressive may be Pujols, the man, as "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon found out.

Simon caught up with the superstar at his foundation's annual prom for teens with Down syndrome where, Simon pointed out, every kid wanted to dance with him and he "never said 'no.' By the end of the evening, he looked like he`d just finished a doubleheader in August."

With the World Series having shifted to Texas, Pujols, may have played his last game in the city that can't live without him, Mitchell observes.

The 31 year old future Hall of Famer has asked for a 10-year contract worth at least $230 million, and the small-market Cards might not be able to hold off other clubs desperate for his services.

But fans in the city famous for its Gateway Arch hope Pujols takes less to stay in St. Louis, and take comfort in knowing Pujols bends over backwards for those he cares about.

Such as a 13-year-old Pujols quietly visited in a hospital while the Cards were in Houston.

Simon said, "Albert ... left Houston's ballpark and went to the Texas Children`s Hospital. He had heard a 13-year-old boy was there who couldn`t make it to the game because he had a malignant brain tumor. Albert came with a gift for Brandon Johnson -- it was the bat that had whacked (his) 400th homer five nights earlier. He signed it, said a prayer, stayed for an hour.

"Brandon is still with us, and the bat is still with him. He hangs onto it the way he hangs onto life. Because of his surgery, it`s not easy for him to express what that visit and that bat mean to him."

But Brandon managed to tell Simon seeing Pujols made him "real happy."

"Albert did not come to see Brandon with a gaggle of photographers," Simon noted. "It was not a publicity stunt.

"Albert Pujols has shown us many things since he came to America," Simon continued. "Becoming a great baseball player is only one of them."

For insight on the prospects of Pujols staying with the Cards, Mitchell turned to St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter and columnist Bryan Burwell: