With the special day that is upon us, December 12, 2012, I decided to take a quick look at some of the notables to have worn the jersey for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The most recent number 12 is, of course, Lance Berkman. The long-time Houston Astros star arrived in St. Louis on the rebound after a mid-season 2010 trade to the Yankees that led nowhere. Assigned to take his balky knees to right field in 2011, the switch-hitter became the National League Comeback Player of the Year, being one of the leaders of the Cardinals’ World Championship run. The injuries returned in 2012, however, as Berkman played in just 32 games. Turning 37 in the spring, the Houston resident is again a free agent and may retire.
During the Tony La Russa years, a series of middle infielders often donned number 12. It began with Luis Alicea in his return to the Cardinals in 1996, followed by long-time Cubs star Shawon Dunston in 2000. Late in his first of two stints as a Cardinal, Miguel Cairo shifted to number 12 in 2003.
Mark Grudzielanek became number 12 in his single season manning second base in 2005. The next year, scrappy infielder and reserve pitcher Aaron Miles picked up the number, also wearing it in his second tour of duty with the club in 2010.
Going back into time by decade, the most notable Cardinals number 12 in the 1980s had to be Tom Lawless. Who can forget the light-hitting infielder’s improbable game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series? Lawless had batted .080 that season and ended his major league career with just two regular-season long balls.
In 1972, the Cards traded their then-current number 12, first baseman Joe Hague, to the Reds for outfielder Bernie Carbo. Yet to become a Red Sox star, Carbo picked up Hague’s number 12 as a Cardinal that season. Late in his career, Carbo returned to St. Louis, but did not don 12 then.
A key member of the Cardinals teams from 1959 through 1965 was slick-fielding first baseman Bill White, another prominent number 12. He was dealt to Philadelphia after the 1965 season before returning to St. Louis to conclude his career in 1969. One of the players heading the other way in the Phillies deal, Alex Johnson, became the new #12. White later spent five years as National League president and is a long-time television commentator.
Following the firing of manager Marty Marion in late 1951, the Cards acquired fiery second baseman Eddie Stanky from the Giants and immediately named the 35-year-old their manager. After winning seasons in 1952 and 1953, the 1954 club dropped to 10 games below .500 and Stanky was fired 36 games into the 1955 season. He later returned to St. Louis as director of player personnel from 1958 through 1964.
First baseman-outfielder Johnny Hopp was a stalwart for the Cardinals through the World War II years. He wore number 12 from 1940 until he was dealt to the Braves prior to the 1946 season, where he was reunited with former St. Louis manager Billy Southworth. Hopp’s best season was 1944, when he batted .336 with 11 home runs and 72 RBI.
Gas House Gang first baseman-outfielder Ripper Collins was the first Cardinal to wear number 12 for more than one season, doing so from 1933-1936. In 1934, Collins led the NL with 35 home runs, a slugging percentage of .615 and 1.008 OPS and helped lead the Cards to the World Championship. Subsequently, his performance dropped off and he was traded to the Cubs following the 1936 season.
With number 12 now vacated by the free agent Berkman, who will wear it in 2013 and beyond?