With cameras flashing across Busch Stadium, Albert Pujols collected his 2,000th Major League hit in Friday's 9-2 win over the Cubs with an RBI double in the eighth inning. He scorched Carlos Marmol's offering down the left-field line, and the Cardinals faithful erupted in unison.
By the time he got to second base, the crowd was on its feet and a video tribute flashed across the scoreboard. Pujols tipped his hat to the 42,042 on hand and admitted he was moments away from shedding a tear.
"I was really emotional," Pujols said. "You have the fans, since 2001, supporting me and my career, and to be able to share this moment with them is incredible."
So how does arguably the game's best hitter celebrate yet another milestone in an already illustrious career?
"I think it's pretty special to have my son come in [the clubhouse] with a couple of bottles of water and spray it all over me," Pujols said with a smile. "It's great. It's something that he's going to remember for the rest of his life."
Pujols needed just 1,650 games to reach 2,000 hits, becoming the fifth Cardinals player to accomplish the feat, joining Stan Musial (3,630), Lou Brock (2,713), Rogers Hornsby (2,110) and Enos Slaughter (2,064).
He's the 12th quickest player to reach 2,000 hits; Musial did it in 1,507 games.
"I'm blessed, it's just an honor to be in the same [breath] as Stan Musial and all the great players of the past," Pujols said. "I never thought that I was going to be able to accomplish this so quick."
Brock was the last Cardinals player to amass 2,000 base hits, as he reached the mark on July 28, 1974, also against the Cubs.
Pujols entered Friday's game two hits shy of 2,000 for his career and said he became aware he was on the cusp of the mark a few days earlier.
In his second at-bat on Friday, the three-time National League Most Valuable Player laced a double to the gap in right-center field to lead off the fourth inning, inching within one hit of the prestigious mark and setting the stage for his latest accomplishment.
His 2,000th career hit was also his 100th of the year, and he's had at least 177 knocks in each of his previous 10 seasons.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has watched Pujols blossom into the hitter he is today, and he was quick to heap praise on the nine-time All-Star. La Russa has been a big league manager for 33 years and has seen his fair share of on-field milestones, but Friday's achievement wasn't lost on the skipper.
"What a thrill for all of us," La Russa said. "What an accomplishment this early in his career. I can't begin to describe it. Amazing."
Pujols finished the night 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a run scored and his 64th RBI of the season.
For his career, Pujols has 431 homers, 444 doubles, 15 triples and 1,110 singles, including 182 hits against the Cubs. More than half of his hits have come on the road, with 981 coming in St. Louis.
Asked before the game if he thought there was any doubt in his mind that Pujols would reach 3,000 hits, La Russa replied, "Nope, no doubt."
Pujols doesn't doubt himself either.
"Hopefully, 3,000 will be there before you know it," he said.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.