Cheap Seats

What's in a number?

Matt Holliday said Thursday that he chose to switch from the number 15 because Jim Edmonds made it famous, choosing number 7 so he could forge his own identity in his career with the Cardinals.

It's funny he should say that because Holliday reminds me a lot of another Redbirds left fielder who wore number 7 a long, long time ago: Hall of Famer Joe "Ducky" Medwick.

Medwick and Holliday are both muscular slugging left fielders who aren't necessarily known for their glove work. Holliday is remembered for dropping the would-be final out of the second game of the NL Division Series last season against the Dodgers. Joe Medwick is said to have failed to catch a ball in a game to allow the score to be tied. In between innings starting pitcher Dizzy Dean nearly came to blows with Medwick in the dugout over the play. After they were separated, Medwick went to the plate and socked a homer to put the Cardinals back in front. Medwick came back to the dugout, took a big drink of water and spit it on Dean's shoes. "Let's see if you can hold that lead," Medwick said.

blog post photo

While their occasional defensive gaffes have earned them a lot of press, Holliday and Medwick are primarily known for their bats. And they are the same type of player at the plate: High average hitters who hit their fair share of homers and even more doubles.

Medwick    .324BA, 17HR, 44DBL, 98R, 113RBI, .362OBP, .505SLG

Holliday    .318BA, 29HR, 43DBL, 109R, 112RBI, .387OBP, . 545SLG

The Stats would be even closer if not for the fact that Medwick, after he was traded from the Cardinals in 1940, was almost killed by one of his former teammates. Batting for Brooklyn against St. Louis, Mewick was hit in the head with a pitch. And that was back in the days when hitters didn't wear batting helmets.

Medwick the most recent National League triple crown winner who accomplished the feat in 1937, averaged 25 homers a year the last four seasons he played in St. Louis. After the beaning he only managed to make it to double figures in home runs twice in the remaining eight years of his career.

blog post photo

Joe Medwick is carried from th field on a stretcher after being beaned by Cardinals hurler Bob Bowman in 1940.

The experience apparently didn't sour Medwick's opinion of his former team. He was able to joke about it while on a USO tour in 1944 when he met Pope Pius XII. When asked what he did for a living by the pontiff, Medwick was said to reply "Your Holiness, I, too used to be a Cardinal."

Medwick returned to St. Louis in 1947 and 1948 to play for the Cardinals.

Hopefully the comparisons between Holliday and Medwick will end with their career averages. Much speculating has been done lately about how Holliday will hold up for the length of his seven-year contract with the Cardinals. Medwick was 28 when he was traded to the Dodgers, or a little bit more than a year younger than Holliday is now. His production dropped off considerably after the beaning in 1940, although Medwick still was a .300 hitter. He was a benchwarmer by the time he was 33 years old and was out of baseball by the time he was 36 -- the age Holliday will be when his Cardinals contract expires.