At least 40 men have worn the number 11 on their St. Louis Cardinals uniform jersey since 1923. They include such notables as Specs Toporcer, Terry Moore, Pepper Martin, Howie Pollet, Ray Jablonski, Alvin Dark, Dick Schofield, Hector Cruz, Don Kessinger, Bernie Carbo and Glenn Brummer. The latter was proudly sporting the digits when he famously stole third base and then home on August 22, 1985 to win an extra-inning game over the Giants during the pennant race.
A versatile middle infielder, Oquendo was acquired from the Mets in 1985 and spent that season in Triple-A. With St. Louis, “The Secret Weapon” wore 11 from 1986 until his retirement as an active player. That occurred after he failed to make the team in Tony La Russa’s first spring training with St. Louis in 1996.
After two years coaching in the minor league system, Oquendo returned to St. Louis and his number 11 in 1999 as the team’s bench coach under La Russa. He moved to the third base coaching station the next season, where he has remained ever since.
Interestingly, three players wore 11 in between Oquendo’s two decade-long stints with St. Louis.
One of the most controversial players of La Russa’s early years with the Cardinals, shortstop Royce Clayton, picked up the number 11 in 1996. Incumbent Ozzie Smith took exception to how the manager handled the starting competition between himself and Clayton and continues to hold a grudge to this day. Clayton kept the number until his trade to Texas at the July 1998 deadline as part of the Fernando Tatis acquisition.
Tatis donned 11 briefly after the trade before assuming his more familiar number 23, which he picked up in a swap that season with reserve infielder Luis Ordaz. Oquendo reclaimed the number 11 from Ordaz upon his 1999 return.
Now held most famously by World Series MVP David Freese, 23 was also the number worn by Tito Francona as a reserve outfielder/first baseman with the 1965 and 1966 Cardinals. Tito is the father of current Cardinals managerial candidate Terry Francona (who sported number 47 as the Red Sox skipper).
If Oquendo, another of the six candidates to replace La Russa, does not get the top job, he may not be wearing his familiar number 11 for St. Louis in 2012 after 23 years. It remains to be seen if the son of a former number 23 would be the cause.
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