Do you know who wore No. 51 when he first came to the St. Louis Cardinals? Why, Tim McCarver, of course.
Who wore No. 5 when he joined the Redbirds? Jose Oquendo, naturally.
How about No. 4? Well, there was that Rogers Hornsby fellow. (Who, strangely enough, wore No. 6 at another juncture in his stay with the Cardinals.)
And on and on and on: Before certain numbers became synonymous with certain great Cardinal players, those numbers were worn (before or after) by other Redbirds.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
A number usually becomes part of a player’s identity — does anyone but a certain Man come to mind when you think of No. 6? — but the history of iconic Cardinals numbers worn by iconic players may surprise you.
I got to thinking about this when I saw Jim Edmonds’ No. 15 worn by Matt Adams this past season in St. Louis.
It just didn’t look right – for one thing, that number didn’t seem large enough for “Big City’s” broad back. For another thing, I’ve gotten used to seeing “32” there instead.
In any event, for a recent generation of Cardinals, 15 ought to belong exclusively to Edmonds. (Ironically, he’d worn No. 5 with the Angels, but that number wasn’t available when he came to Albert Pujols’ Cardinals in 2000).
An earlier generation might associate No. 15 with McCarver, who discarded No. 51 following his rookie season in 1959. The catcher moved to No. 9 for 1960, No. 20 for 1961, spent 1962 with the team’s AAA affiliate in Atlanta (believe it or not, they were called the “Crackers”), then donned No. 15 for good when he made the Cards’ big-league team in the spring of 1963.
The Cardinals, I should note, have retired 11 numbers: Ozzie Smith’s No. 1, Red Schoendienst’s No. 2, Stan Musial’s No. 6, Enos Slaughter’s No. 9, Tony La Russa’s No. 10, Ken Boyer’s No. 14, Dizzy Dean’s No. 17, Lou Brock’s No. 20, Whitey Herzog’s No. 24, Bruce Sutter’s No. 42, and Bob Gibson’s No. 45. They also retired No. 85 — a number no player actually wore — on the occasion of Gussie Busch’s 85th birthday.
But they also have a few numbers that will surely never be worn by any other player, manager or coach: Pujols’ No. 5, which has stayed in mothballs at Busch Stadium since he went to the Angels before the 2012 season; Molina’s No. 4, which will be stashed in the closet when he retires, and McGee’s No. 51, which he wears now as a coach for the team.
Of course, no Cardinal fan would think of 51 belonging to anyone but McGee these days, even if it was handed out during one forgettable season after Willie retired after the 1999 season.
Happily, Bud Smith wore Willie’s number for just one season — 2001 – before fan uproar convinced the Cardinals to give Smith No. 52 for 2002.
Let’s go through the list of retired (or ought-to-be-retired) numbers,* shall we?
That number has been worn by 22 Cardinals, including the Wizard of Oz from 1982-96. He became a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years later.
Who wore No. 1 just before Ozzie? The star-crossed, ill-tempered Garry Templeton, if you remember. The shortstop was dragged off the field by Herzog after making an obscene gesture to fans in 1981, and dealt to San Diego straight up for Smith that winter.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 1: Outfielder/third baseman Pepper Martin (1934-38), third baseman Whitey Kurowski (1942-49), and outfielder Bernie Carbo (1972-73).
Eighteen Cardinals have worn the number, none more memorably than Germantown native Red Schoendienst, who spent more than 60 years in a Cardinals uniform as a player, coach, manager and special assistant.
Who wore No. 2 just before Red? Infielder Lou Klein, who spent parts of five seasons in the majors, and yielded No. 2 to Schoendienst in 1946.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 2: Infielder Leo Durocher (1933-37); Martin, who wore it in 1932 before switching to No. 1; and infielder Buddy Blattner in 1942.
Twenty-four Cardinals have worn No. 4, including Molina for all but one of his 15 seasons.
Who wore No. 4 just before Yadier? Catcher Einar Diaz in 2005, when Molina was a rookie and was given No. 41. Diaz went to the Dodgers in ’06 and was out of baseball the year after that.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 4: Hall of Fame infielder Rogers Hornsby in 1933, shortstop Marty Marion (1940-50), and second baseman Fernando Vina (2000-03).
Twenty-seven Cardinals have worn No. 5, including Pujols, but nobody since he left for the Los Angeles Angels after the 2011 World Series win for the Cardinals.
Who wore No. 5 just before Albert? Outfielder Thomas Howard in 1999-2000 at the end of an 11-year career spent with six teams.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 5: Outfielder Harry “The Hat” Walker in 1946, 1947 and 1955; infielder Mike Ramsey (1980-83), and outfielder Ron Gant (1996-98).
And Oquendo wore No. 5 when he first came to the Cardinals in 1986, but quickly switched to No. 11 — the number he wore the rest of his playing days and during his coaching career with St. Louis.
Eleven Cardinals have worn Stan Musial’s number, but none since he concluded a 23-year Hall of Fame career amid widespread acknowledgment as the greatest Redbird ever.
Who wore No. 6 just before Stan? Infielder Pep Young, who ended a three-team, 10-year career in September 1941, when Musial was summoned from the minors.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 6: Ironically, Schoendienst for one season in 1945, his rookie season, when Musial was in the Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor. Another: Hornsby, who wore No. 6 in 1924.
Twenty-two players have worn No. 9 for the Cardinals, including Hall of Famer Enos “Country Boy” Slaughter. The outfielder was with St. Louis from 1938-42, and after service in World War II he returned to the Cardinals from 1946-53.
Who wore No. 9 just before Slaughter? The memorably named Debs Garms, an outfielder/third baseman who donned it in 1943-45 at the end of a 12-year career with four teams, including the St. Louis Browns and Boston Bees. And how about that first name? He was named for political activist Eugene Debs.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 9: Catcher/third baseman Joe Torre, who played with St. Louis from 1969 to 1974 and wore the number again as manager from 1991-95; he wore No. 22 as the Cards skipper in 1990, when third baseman Terry Pendleton (1984-90) was in his last season with St. Louis. Also: outfielder Roger Maris in 1967-69.
Forty men have worn No. 10 for St. Louis, including Tony La Russa from 1996-2011 to conclude his Hall of Fame managing career.
Who wore No. 10 just before La Russa? A little-know infielder named Ramon Caraballo, who had two seasons in the majors, including a one-year stay with St. Louis in 1995.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 10: Maryville native Ken Oberkfell (with the Cardinals from 1977 through 1983, though the third baseman wore No. 10 only the last four years of that stay; also, fan favorite infielder Rex Hudler (1990-92) and outfielder Johnny Mize (1936-41).
Twenty-four players have worn No. 14 for St. Louis, including Ken Boyer from 1955 to 1965 and then served as the Cardinals manager from 1978-80.
Who wore No. 14 just before Boyer? Pitcher Gerry Staley, who spent the first eight seasons of his 15-year career (1947-54) with St. Louis.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 14: Three men whose names would never be confused with the others — Burgess Whitehead (1933-35), Frenchy Bordagaray (1937-38) and Gus Mancuso (1941-42).
Thirty players have worn the number of Dizzy Dean, who won 134 games for the Cardinals in 1930 and 1932-37.
Who wore No. 17 just before Dizzy? Catcher Charlie Niebergall, who played 54 games in three seasons with St. Louis ending in 1924.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 17: Catcher Joe Garagiola (1947-61), Vinegar Bend Mizell (1956-58) and outfielder Bobby Tolan (1966-68).
Twenty-four players have worn No. 20 for the Redbirds, no one with more distinction than Lou Brock from 1964 to 1979.
Who wore No. 20 just before Brock? Outfielder/catcher Gary Kolb (1960 and 1962-63), at the start of a seven-year career with four teams.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 20: Outfielder Wally Moon (1954-58), pitcher Red Munger (1946-52), and McCarver in 1961.
A whopping 53 Cardinals — the most of any on this list — have worn No. 24, but none as prominent or franchise-changing as New Athens native Whitey Herzog.
Who wore No. 24 just before Whitey? Oberkfell from 1977 to 1981, when he surrendered No. 24 to Herzog and took up No. 10 — later to be worn by La Russa.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 24: Former pitcher Rick Ankiel when he returned to the Cardinals’ major-league club as an outfielder from 2007 to 2009 before leaving for five other teams; shortstop Dick Groat (1963-65), and Ken Boyer’s brother, pitcher Cloyd Boyer, from 1950-52.
Twenty-eight players have worn No. 42 for the Cardinals, most notably by closer Bruce Sutter.
Who wore No. 42 just before Sutter? Pitcher Bob Sykes, in 1979 and 1980; he then gave the number to Sutter and switched to No. 38.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 42: Outfielder Curt Flood, who wore the number his rookie season in 1958 before switching to No. 21; pitcher Harvey Haddix, who won 53 games for St. Louis from 1952 to 1956; and reliever Mike Perez, who appeared in 205 games from 1990-94.
Only eight Cardinals have worn No. 45 — the fewest on this list, led by Bob Gibson, who won 251 games and had 255 complete games in 17 seasons with St. Louis (1959-75). In his first season, though, he wore No. 58 in 13 appearances.
Who wore No. 45 just before Gibson? Pitcher Dean Stone, who was 0-1 in 18 appearances in 1959, his only season as a Cardinal and the year that Gibson joined the team but wore No. 58.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 45: Not anyone of real consequence; perhaps the best of the limited bunch is pitcher Von McDaniel, who won seven games for the Cardinals in 1957-58.
Ten Cardinals have worn No. 51 for the Cardinals, but none so dramatically or successfully as Willie McGee, one of the most popular players in St. Louis history.
Who wore No. 51 just before Willie? Neil Fiala, the longtime baseball coach at SWIC, who had five pinch-hit appearances for the Cardinals and Cincinnati in 1981. The next year, McGee arrived on the scene.
Notable Birds who also wore No. 51: Columbia’s T.J. Mathews, who had the number in 1995-96 before he was part of the trade that brought Mark McGwire to the Cardinals; and the afore-mentioned McCarver and Bud Smith.