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Reclaiming St. Louis Cardinals Uniform Numbers

It should come as no surprise that some St. Louis Cardinals fans have trouble saying goodbye to former team members who depart, whether via trade or free agency. Popular Cardinals having left the organization in the last 14 months include Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte, Shane Robinson and Shelby Miller.

It is easier to hold onto their memories if the club does not immediately reissue their past heroes’ uniform numbers to others.

However, the reality of the situation is that numbers are tight. With 11 coaches and 12 retired numbers, the chances for a new Cardinal to receive a number under Tommy Pham’s 60 are severely limited. As a result, non-roster invitees (NRIs) to big league camp are usually issued uniforms in the 60s, 70s or 80s. In fact, Stephen Piscotty wore 91 the last two springs.

Here are some of the currently-unavailable numbers.

# Retired # Coaches
1 Ozzie Smith 3 Bill Mueller
2 Red Schoendienst 11 Jose Oquendo
6 Stan Musial 25 David Bell
9 Enos Slaughter 26 Mike Matheny
10 Tony La Russa 34 Derek Lilliquist
14 Ken Boyer 39 Jamie Pogue
17 Dizzy Dean 47 John Mabry
20 Lou Brock 49 Blaise Ilsley
24 Whitey Herzog 76 Kleininger Teran
42 Bruce Sutter / 77 Chris Maloney
Jackie Robinson 90 Dennis Schutzenhofer
45 Bob Gibson
85 August Busch

As spring training concluded, only seven numbers in the below-60 range were available, five having been vacated by the aforementioned former Cardinals, plus one by a departing coach, Mike Aldrete. The other was turned back in when David Bell claimed former hitting coach Mark McGwire’s number 25. Bell is the first non-Big Mac Cardinal to wear it since 1997.

Though McGwire has left the ranks, five other unofficially out-of-service numbers remain in that status. They are Albert Pujols’ number 5, Chris Carpenter’s 29, Willie McGee’s 51, the late Darryl Kile’s 57 plus 69. Another previously among them was the late Josh Hancock’s 32. Matt Adams has worn the number the last two seasons after Rob Johnson donned it briefly in 2013.

Now that McGee has finally been recognized by his 2014 induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame, it is time to release his 51 as well. Though some will disagree, it is no different than his co-inductee Jim Edmonds, whose 15 has since been worn by Hal McRae, Matt Holliday, then Jon Jay, Rafael Furcal and now, Randal Grichuk.

# Unofficially out of service
5 Albert Pujols (since 2011)
29 Chris Carpenter (since 2013)
51 Willie McGee (since 1999)
57 Darryl Kile (since 2002)

Six of the seven under-60 numbers available as 2015 spring training camp ended have since been claimed by others. Three went to former NRIs who earned 40-man roster spots. When making their St. Louis debuts, they shed their 70s and 80s – Ed Easley (72 to 23), Mitch Harris (73 to 40) and since-suspended Cody Stanley (80 to 43).

The other three were assigned to veterans acquired in trade – Brandon Moss (21), Steve Cishek (28) and Jonathan Broxton (30).

While Kelly’s old 58 was the only one of this group reissued immediately this spring, to John Gast, it was freed up again when the lefty did not make the big-league club.

As a result, the numbers of all of the 2014 departees have already been reused.

Previously available
Reclaimed in 2015
# (last worn by/year) # (spring training #)
21 Allen Craig (2014) 21 Brandon Moss
23 David Bell (2014) 23 Ed Easley (72)
28 Mike Aldrete (2014) 28 Steve Cishek
30 Jason Motte (2014) 30 Jonathan Broxton
40 Shelby Miller (2014) 40 Mitch Harris (73)
43 Shane Robinson (2014) 43 Cody Stanley (80)
58 Joe Kelly (2014) 58 John Gast (spring only)

A final note. Upon making his MLB debut in July, Piscotty moved to since-released Scott Moore’s spring 55, which was most recently identified with Skip Schumacher and worn briefly by Jermaine Curtis in 2013.

Of course, nothing ever stays the same. As free agents depart this fall and new players take their places, the number shifting will continue.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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56 Responses to “Reclaiming St. Louis Cardinals Uniform Numbers”

  1. blingboy says:

    Holding back #5 is stupid.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I wonder if a simple majority of Cardinals fans would agree.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        best hitter to ever don the uniform. Too good, had to step up to a bigger market, for the overall good of the game.

        • Brian Walton says:

          For the overall good of his bank account, you meant…

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Actually. I meant what I wrote. Los angeles is a much bigger market and nada lot of Hispanics. It’s a better place for A highly remunerated Latin athlete. It’s better for the game for the bigger markets to support the highest paid players.

            • blingboy says:

              There are more people and more latinos, but he is nothing special to them. There are higher profile athletes and countless higher profile celebrities. His team isn’t anything very significant amongst all that is southern CA. He doesn’t even live there. It was his choice to give up the immortality that he could have had here alongside Stan. So be it.

              May all of his PAs end in a 9-3 put out.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                All players are mercenaries. The most accomplished will be drawn to the biggest markets after they earn manumission.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Uh, no. Not all. Ask Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, etc…

                  You should have said, “the most accomplished, who also want the absolute most money.”

                  I have nothing particular against Pujols. He and his wife made their own call, though over time, they will probably come around to admitting that it was the wrong decision.

                  From the Cardinals perspective, freeing up the annual money to first sign Beltran and Furcal and later others with the extra cash each year for the next decade PLUS the services of Wacha and Piscotty for at least six years each made Pujols’ departure a clear win for the team.

                  • JumboShrimp says:

                    The cards chose to offer Molina a precedent setting amount for a catcher at that moment in time. He accepted it. This does not make Yadier good and his friend Albert bad. Both made mercenary rational decisions.

                    The advent of free agency gave players more rights and introduced salary competition, into the sequestered world of baseball. Players who elect to move between teams are not intrinsically greedy for doing so, while Adam Wainwright is not Sister Teresa because he stayed put for $100MM.

                    Gibson Musial, Brock would likely left town, given the chance. But they are still good people

                  • JumboShrimp says:

                    The idea Wainwright and Molina did not want top money is not persuasive. If they had each signed for $1mm, and foregone $173mm, that would have been impressive self sacrifice. I cannot accept Adam was not greedy, because he agreed to pocket a mere $100mm.
                    The narrative that players who leave are greedy, whereas those who choose to play in St. Louis are thus saints, is intellectually bankrupt. A better narrative needs to be invented, to better conform to the reality of the game as it is today.

                    I see no reason why Albert should ever decide to regret leaving. He is a loyal person and the Angels showed him respect, measured in dollars. He will do his best, though the foot pain is chronic. I hope he can play thru pain to overtake Bonds.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      Was Matt Holliday a greedy bad man to prefer free agency to resigning with the Rockies? Or a saint, because he signed with the Cards. Hint: he is the same guy, no matter what uniform.

                      How about Heyward? Was he bad not to sign up with the Braves for the rest of his days? Is Jason a greedy pig who will someday repent his sins? Or is he a working athlete going about his life?

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      Or Kershaw. Was he good to resign with the Dodgers or was he greedy to need so much money?

                      His last year with the Bulls, Michael Jordan wanted $35mm. Was this greedy or good? Or greedy and good?

                      Was Beltran good and u greedy to come to St. Louis in 2012? Was he greedy and bad to go to the Yankees in 2014? will Carlos repent the error of his ways?

    • blingboy says:

      Anybody have a thought on Schmalbert’s .216 BABIP on the season? For Sept so far it is .156. How can that even happen?

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Pham had his coming out party last night. He needs more at bats moving forward.

  3. blingboy says:

    Wonder if we will see more of that pitcher helmet after that liner to the head of the Brewers pitcher tonight. That was a solid hit by a hard line drive. know he walked off, but still. Hope he is OK.

  4. Brian Walton says:

    Bling, are you still out there on the ledge?

  5. Bw52 says:

    Having tp play catch-up ball every game is plain ridiculous.Wacha,Lynn GHarcia all stunk .What the hell is wrong with this team ? No fire.No spirit?This team is heading into the playoffs acting like a turtle that`s flipped over and just flailing helplessly.

      • blingboy says:

        Yes, that comes with having played so many more games than them.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Only if your analysis is so shallow that you don’t at least consider roster usage.

          Let me guess, they just suck. Chokers, right? That is so deep and insightful.

          P.S. The Cards clinched a post-season spot today, but no one seems to care about anything positive.

          • blingboy says:

            I admit I did not consider the possibility that roster use decisions on our part have left us at a disadvantage. But, of course, quality of management is as important as quality of play.

            I am glad we clinched a post-season berth. We have done so 11 times since 2000 and won it all twice. Those are not great odds, which is why I don’t understand the failure to appreciate the critical importance of being on a roll heading into it. This is no time to be getting out played, or out managed.

            • Brian Walton says:

              You made at least two assumptions, the first of which is just plain wrong. The second of which I would love to see actual data to determine if is are true.

              1) You said 2-of-11 is “not great odds”. Simple logic says that 1-of-10 is standard odds, since there are 10 playoff teams each year and just one winner.

              2) “Being on a roll” from sometime in Sept through Sept 19 has special relevance to how a team performs in October. I question that, but without data, it is just speculation.

              • Bw52 says:

                While it is yet to be determined how the team will finish the season it would be nice to see a win streak going into the playoffs.Going in a positive note certainly can`t hurt.Getting everybody healthy would help .Trying to be positive nere.We need the mighty Grichuk back .he makes things happen.

              • blingboy says:

                I am comfortable disagreeing over whether 2 of 11 is great odds.

                I do not have data either, so I guess we will have to disagree over whether it important to be hot in September.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  No, we are disagreeing on the importance level of being hot from Sept 1-19.

                  • blingboy says:

                    OK, agreed. I take it we can agree that whatever the importance of being hot the first part of the month, being hot the last part is more important.

                    I do want to make clear that my concern is not limited to what we have seen the last few weeks. We played our best ball in the earlier part of the season, and seem to playing our worst ball as we get toward the end. I shudder at the thought of getting out played by an inferior team that is hot at the right time while we are not. And, yes, they are all inferior.

                    • Nutlaw says:

                      Cards record by month:

                      April: 15-6
                      May: 18-11
                      June: 18-8
                      July: 15-12
                      August: 19-9
                      September: 7-10

                      It looks like really only the last few weeks are the problem, though, bb. August was a stellar month, closing up 8-1, in fact.

                    • blingboy says:

                      That winning streak at the end of August has come in handy indeed considering our lead now stands at 4.0 games. The high point was 9, I believe, right around the end of June.

                      I understand that many fans and observers are unconcerned. I agree that numbers can tell the truth, but not always and not always the whole truth. Anyway, I hope the happy campers will be proven right. We will have to wait until the final score of the final game to find out. Finishing out September the same way as August would make me feel a lot better.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Right, Nutlaw. In the last 30 days, the Cardinals have lost 1/2 of a game off their division lead. As in 0.5.

                      I think I will jump off the nearest bridge.

  6. Bw52 says:

    People should be concerned IMHO.Wacha has been so-so lately,Lynn has been poor lately ,Garcia a good game then a bad game.The actual only one who has been fairly consistent is Lackey.The bullpen has shown signs of fatigue and the offense is it usual inconsistent self,Yadi looks worn out,Peralta`s struggles are well known,Wong struggling.Matt Carpenter thinks he Chris Davis (piling up HRs and Strikeouts).Only guys who are showing anything now are Piscotty,Pham and Greg Garcia..Even Piscotty is fading a bit.If Pete Kozma makes the playoff roster instead of Greg Garcia then Matheny should be tarred and feathered and run out on a rail.I must admit to changing my mind about Tommy Pham.I figured he was a waste of time and a 2 week woner.Now i like his hustle and his energy that he brings to a lethargic team.

    • blingboy says:

      Lynn is a horse and Lackey is a war horse playing for a contract.

      This is a time in a season when a team should be able to count on its veteran core and leaders for the sprint to the wire. It is a great stroke of good luck that we have had a group of newbies step up.

      The last home game is a week from now. How about they activate Wainwright and have him pitch the ninth.

    • blingboy says:

      As I just mentioned above, its great that newbies like Pham and Piscotty are stepping up, like today with the dingers to put us up 3-0.

  7. blingboy says:

    I was especially impressed by Martinez’s ability to recover after he had become rattled and gave up the two runs.

  8. Bw52 says:

    It seems like every season the Cards go into the playoffs shorthanded due to injury.Just one season it would be nice to compete with a full healthy roster instead of playing with one hand tied down.Why does this happen every year it seems like?

    • Nutlaw says:

      Well, chances are good that someone is going to get injured throughout the year and probably multiple someones. You probably won’t find too many entirely healthy teams in MLB in September if you look around, I’m sure.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I have no data to back it up, but I sense the Cards have more than their share of injuries. If so, my guess on top of guess is that the reason why is that the main horses are ridden hard during the season.

  9. JumboShrimp says:

    Baseball can entail0 drama and strange turns of fate. 2015 is no exception, especially in centerfield.

    During spring training, the question was whether Pham could reach the majors after 9 minor league seasons, he soon suffered a leg injury and landed on the DL. Bourjos and Jay were both coming off surgeries, however it turned out jay was much worse than when injured, while Healthy Bourjos still could not hit.

    Given a chance, Pham has been tremendous, with an ops above 860. The long time minor leaguer was not too old, rather just what the birds needed. An unlikely tale of prevailing over adversity. Great job by Pham.

    • blingboy says:

      Pham and Piscoty have been the killer Ps. Who needs the overpaid relics.

      • Bw52 says:

        The performance of the kids could make one think that the Cards could decide to ride the OF next season of Holliday,Grichuk,Piscotty,Pham and Moss.Leaving Jay and Bourjos on the outside looking elsewhere.Same with Heyward…………….i think he is going to be out of Cards price range..

        • Brian Walton says:

          I think the Cards could afford Heyward, but as you note, they have some other interesting and less expensive options. First time in recent memory they’ve had more real MLB hitters than roster spots.

          • Bw52 says:

            Brian i think the Cards probably could afford Heyward if they wanted him.He is a fine player and just hitting his prime but the question is “Is he worth paying Holliday type money or more tofor a position that the Cards could have a overflow of good to decent players (Outfield).I am starting to lean towards working out a deal to keep John Lackey here for a couple more years,his stability and pitching have been excellent and he has pitched better than his record.Aveteran presence along with Wainwright can only help keep the younger arms focused and you just can`t have too much pitching nowdays.

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    With the injury to Molina, the loss of Cody Stanley hurts more.

    We had to win last night, behind Garcia at home. Same tonight, behind lackey.

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