Whitey Herzog will be honored prior to Saturday’s game against the Pirates. His No. 24 jersey will never be worn again in St. Louis. The retirement ceremony will be another highlight in a whirlwind summer that included his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last Sunday.
The highlight of his short and sweet speech came at the end.
Every question was ‘what’s it feel like to be a Hall of Famer? Well I didn’t know. I said ‘I won’t know until July 25.’ Well now I can tell you what it feels like. Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, is like going to heaven before you die.
Having one’s number retired is, in my humble opinion, just under the honor of the Hall of Fame. And while both highlight a player or manager’s greatness, I don’t think the two should be connected. Retiring a number shouldn’t hinge on a player’s Hall of Fame status. There is more to it than a plaque in Cooperstown. The jersey and the number of a player go beyond baseball and even beyond the Hall of Fame. They hold an intimate relationship with the fans and the organization that the Hall of Fame does not. It is about an effect on the community and devotion to that organization during their time with them. It’s about a love affair with a region. When retiring a number, the first questions shouldn’t be ‘Was he a Hall of Famer?’ It should be ‘Was he a Cardinals Hall of Famer?’
There is a difference. The answer to the second question lies in a loyalty that has to be observed over the years. Did the fans truly love the player? Did the player love the organization? Did they make a difference? The answer is simple. It lies in this question: What is the first thing you think of when you hear the player’s name?
The answer is only a few words.
St. Louis Cardinals.
Herzog is a Redbird for life. The city knows it and the organization knows it. And they have known it since he left the Cardinals in 1990. After a decade of service that included a World Series title, three pennants, and the phenomenon now known simply as Whiteyball, everyone knew it. Herzog captivated the city and took attendance and pride in Cardinals baseball to another level. He created the undying passion for the Cards that exists today and makes St. Louis the best baseball city in the country.
Whitey Herzog is what the Cardinals are all about. And that’s why he deserves to have his No. 24 retired. It’s not about last weekend. It’s about 10 years of baseball from 1980 to 1990 that made the Cardinals matter in St. Louis. It’s about family.
And it should have been done years ago. The Cardinals should have retired Herzog’s number long before Cooperstown came calling.
Tomorrow, Herzog will join another fraternity. One even smaller than the Hall of Fame. One that knows only one color and one city. He will forever be remembered as a St. Louis Cardinal.
If Cooperstown is heaven to Herzog, St. Louis is the pearly Gateway in the clouds.
(Cards News & Notes after the jump!) [...]
Cards News & Notes
-Herzog originally wore No. 3 when he took the reins in St. Louis in 1980. Ken Oberkfell had No. 24, but switched to No. 10 after the season so Herzog could have his number. His No. 24 will be the 11th honored by St. Louis:
No. 1: Ozzie Smith; No. 2: Red Schoendienst; No. 6: Stan Musial; No. 9: Enos Slaughter; No. 14: Ken Boyer; No. 17: Dizzy Dean; No. 20: Lou Brock; No. 42: Bruce Sutter (Jackie Robinson); No. 45: Bob Gibson; No. 85: former owner Gussie Busch when he turned 85
*Rogers Hornsby who did not have a number and Jack Buck are also honored in Busch Stadium with the other 11.
-The Cardinals signed pitcher Seth Blair who was the 46th overall pick in last month’s draft. Blair, 21, was a standout at Arizona State, going 12-1 with a 3.64 ERA in 18 starts for the Sun Devils. He was honored as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year. He will start his Redbirds career in Batavia, N.Y., for the Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League (Single-A).
-David Freese is close to beginning his rehab assignment and thus closer to joining the Cardinals for their stretch run. The rookie third baseman was having an outstanding year (.296, four homers, 36 RBI) for St. Louis but ankle and toe injuries have impeded his progress and kept him off the field for about a month. The injuries were complicated when Freese dropped a weight on his foot earlier in the month during a rehab workout. Kyle Lohse is also working his way back to the bigs after forearm surgery in May. He will start in Triple-A Memphis Saturday.
-The latest trade rumors surrounding St. Louis point to Jake Westbrook of the Cleveland Indians. Others include Aaron Cook of the Colorado Rockies and Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks. I think the best moves for the Cards would include a different Indians pitcher (Fausto Carmona) and Stephen Drew. Carmona is younger and better than Westbrook who has an injury history. Drew would solve all the Cardinals problems at shortstop. Why Stephen Drew should be the Cardinals No. 1 target as the trade deadline bears down on baseball.
Tags: Batavia Muckdogs Cooperstown David Freese Hall Of Fame Heaven Jake Westbrook Jersey Retirement Kyle Lohse MLB Draft No. 24 Seth Blair St Louis Cardinals St. Louis Stephen Drew Trade Deadline Whitey Herzog