Born: January 21, 1972

At Thanksgiving of 1995, months after his big-league pitching debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, Alan Benes realized that his possible rookie year could be, well, interesting.

A call had come in for his older brother Andy, an accomplished big-league pitcher himself who suddenly had a chance to sign a free-agent deal with the Cardinals.

“As a kid, you dream up those scenarios,” Alan said, before breaking into a sheepish grin. “But then, at the same time, you wonder, ‘That’s one less spot (in the rotation).’”

Benes turned worry into wins, with the summer of 1996 season launching the bulk of his 19 seasons overall in the Cardinals organization, including six as a big-league pitcher in St. Louis. Which is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted the right-hander with the Class of 2020.

Benes secured the club’s No. 5 starter role out of spring training in 1996 and then, as the other half of the Benes Brothers duo, helped St. Louis reach the postseason for the first time since the 1987 Cardinals won the National League pennant.

The Benes’ work helped to start the Cardinals’ next Golden Era, as they made the playoffs 13 times over the next 20 years.

“That is something when I look back on my career, it is something I’m really proud of,” said Benes, a 13-game winner in 1996. In fact, he got the call in Game 5 of the NL Championships Series and, matched opposite, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddox, pitched five solid innings. “Even though the longevity of my career wasn’t as great because of injuries, I do feel I like I was part of the resurgence for the organization.”

A first-round draft pick in 1993 out of Creighton University, Benes pitched eight big-league seasons overall  — including in St. Louis from 1995 through 2001, when he worked 431 innings and won 27 games. When Benes made his big-league debut as a September call-up in 1995 and then began his rookie season, the club featured a number of veterans. He had to mature quickly.

Fortunately, Andy (MSHOF 2020) was among many in his corner.

“It was special having him there,” Alan said. “We were five years apart, so we were never on the same team (as kids).”

An injury wiped out his 1998 season, and he returned in late 1999 as a reliever. In 2000, with his brother back on the club, Benes covered 30 games and 46 innings for a Cardinals team that reached the NLCS.

A key? The confidence bestowed in him by pitching coach Dave Duncan and manager Tony La Russa – as well as a number of other pitching coaches, including Marty Mason and Mark Riggins.

“’Dunc’ would say baseball runs in cycles. The slider became popular in the 80s and 90s, and hitters got used to it,” said Benes, more of a fly-ball pitcher during a Duncan era heavy on groundball-inducing sinkers. “He was good at understanding people could do certain things.”

“What makes the Cardinals so special is their development in the minors, too,” Benes said.

The Cardinals traditionally choose college pitchers with their first-round draft picks, and Benes fit the mold in 1993.

Two years earlier, sensing he wasn’t quite pro-ready, the right-hander joined Creighton University – then coached by Jim Hendry in his pre-Chicago Cubs general manager days.

As a freshman, Benes pitched Creighton to the College World Series. In fact, he was part of one of the CWS’ best games in history, as he fired 8 1/3 innings opposite future first-round draft pick Tyler Greene of Wichita State, which won 3-2 in 12 innings.

That game punctuated that Benes fully knew his role. At the time, Creighton had only eight scholarships.

“You don’t have the ability to make mistakes on recruits and overcome it,” Benes said. “They were really hard on me and reminded me of the type of season we needed to have. I learned to have toughness and confidence. And I really grew up that year.”

After his playing days, Benes scouted for the Cardinals for seven years and then opened a new business, A-1 Concrete Leveling.

Looking back, he thanks the support of his wife, Mary Beth and their three children – Sean, Zachary and Ryan – as well his parents Karen and Chuck Benes, and brothers Andy and Adam and sister Amy.

“Without that support, I wouldn’t have been able get through a lot of things and persevere,” Benes said,” and so some of the things I was able to accomplish.”