Cardinals Numerology

Gary Kodner

Numbers are very important in baseball. The Cardinals first experimented with uniform numbers In 1923. Acting on the suggestion of St. Louis sportswriter John Sheridan, St. Louis Cardinals manager Branch Rickey added numbers to the uniform sleeves. I was not well received by the fans and media and was discounted the following season. Numbers reappeared on the backs of the Cardinals jerseys in 1932 and have been worn each year since. Major Leaguers have been known to pay great sums or barter to wear the number they desire on the back of their jersey. Example: When John Lackey came to the Cardinals last season, he traded Pat Neshek, a signed Babe Ruth baseball for number 41.

The Cardinals organization honors their greatest by retiring their numbers and displaying them prominently in Busch Stadium. Currently, the Cardinals have 10 retired numbers, 1 retired “SL” emblem, and a retired microphone.

So what’s the system or guidelines that determine the retirement of numbers? Who knows? there does not appear to be any rules or criteria. Perhaps it is at the description of the Club owners. The system seems flawed and inconsistent.

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Is being in the national Baseball Hall of Fame a criteria? Not exactly. Most of these players with retired numbers are in Cooperstown except for Ken Boyer-14, Gussie Busch-85 (who are not in the Hall) and there are Hall-of-Famers (inducted as Cardinals) who’s numbers have not been retired: Joe Medick, Frankie Frisch, Rogers Hornsby, Jesse Haines, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jim Bottomly, Billy Southworth, Chick Hafey, Johnny Mize.

Many of the popular lower numbers are retired and will not be worn by current or future Cardinals. 

Let’s check the list:

1 – Ozzie “the Wizard” Smith (number retired)

2 – Albert “Red” Schoendienst (number retired)

4 – Yadier Molina – (likely the last Cardinals player to wear this number)

5 – Have you noticed no one wears this number. Are they saving it for Albert Pujols? I can’t believe no one has requested. If it is retired, why not make it official? If it’s not retired, let someone use it.

6 – Stan “the Man” Musial, (greatest of all retired numbers)

7 – (not retired) Currently worn by Matt Holliday. Do you know that Joe “Ducky” Medwick wore that number? Why is he not on the wall? Played 9 great seasons with the Cardinals, World Series star, Gas House Gang member, last NL Player to win a triple crown. Why not retire this number? Maybe because he also wore 12, 21, 28?

9 – Enos “Country” Slaughter (number retired)

10 – Tony La Russa (number retired) His 16 Hall of Fame years with the Cardinals was not significant enough to wear an STL on his HOF plaque. I know he was associated with other teams. But so was Boyer, McGwire, Dean, Slaughter, Sutter, McGee, etc. All Cardinals in Cooperstown.

14 – Ken Boyer (number retired)

17 – Jerome “Dizzy” Dean (number retired)

20 – Lou Brock (number retired)

24 – “Whitey” Herzog (number retired)

42 – Bruce Sutter and Jackie Robinson (double retirement) What’s the deal with Robinson? I don’t recall him wearing the “Birds on Bat”. MLB imposed a retirement of #42 for every MLB team to honor the first African American to break the color barrier. OK with that. Then why not retire #22 Tom Alston, the first African American to play for the Cardinals? The reason is obvious, he wasn’t good enough.

45 – Bob Gibson (number retired)

85 – August A. Gussie Busch Jr. (number retired) I don’t recall Gussie Busch making a player appearance in uniform.

“SL” Emblem – Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby actually wore #4 in 1933 (his last year with the Cardinals) Why don’t they retire it? Maybe because they are saving #4 for Yadi?

Microphone – Jack Buck, Can you retire a microphone?

Numeric questions:

– When are they going to retire #51? Not letting anyone wear this number except Willie McGee

– Is #25 in reserve for Mark McGwire? It’s a good number yet no one is using it.

– What is the deal with #5? Another good number. Is Albert’s number retired or not?

– #57, Darryl Kile’s old number is not being used. Maybe because he died during his playing days with the Cardinals? It’s bad luck? Out of respect? Carlos Martinez is wearing Oscar Tavares’ #18