The St. Louis Cardinals have one of the richest histories of any team in the MLB. Let’s look back at that history and the numbers those players wore.
The St. Louis Cardinals retire numbers and honor initials more than any team this side of the Yankees, from the No. 1 for Ozzie Smith to the No. 85 for long-time owner Gussie Busch. Do they sometimes overdo it? Do they sometimes pass on a more deserving player or personality?
Yes. And maybe.
Eleven St. Louis player and manager numbers have been retired: Ozzie’s 1, Red Schoendienst’s 2, Stan Musial’s 6, Enos Slaughter’s 9, Tony La Russa’s 10, Ken Boyer’s 14, Dizzy Dean’s 17, Lou Brock’s 20, Whitey Herzog’s 24, Bruce Sutter’s 42 and Bob Gibson’s 45. All MLB teams have retired Jackie Robinson’s 42. The Cards have also retired the initials RH for Rogers Hornsby and JB for broadcaster Jack Buck, as well as the 85 for Busch, who was 85 when honored in 1984.
You might wonder why Boyer, a non-Hall of Famer, had his number retired while Cooperstown inductees Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick and Johnny Mize have no numerals or initials on the Busch Stadium walls. And why did Sutter, who spent just four years in St. Louis, with just a 6.3 WAR, get the honor?
It’s hard to get too indignant over retired-number omissions when the Cardinals have more honorees than any other NL team, although you could make a case for Frisch, Medwick and Mize. Curt Flood is also worth consideration for his courage in challenging baseball’s reserve clause as well as his 42.3 Cardinals WAR, which ranks ninth all-time, ahead of Dean and Schoendienst (although Red’s No. 2 is on the wall for his managing as well as his playing).
While Ted Simmons’ 23 merits discussion, it might be wise to save space for Yadier Molina’s No. 4 and Albert Pujols’ No. 5. Unless you think them unworthy of number retirement.
Here’s a look at the Cardinals finest performers and personalities from uniform numbers 1-51:
No. 1: SS Ozzie Smith. According to WAR, Ozzie is the greatest No. 1 to play the game, followed by Lou Whitaker of the Tigers and Pee Wee Reese of the Dodgers. His predecessor at short, Garry Templeton, also wore No. 1, as did Whitey Kurowski from 1942-49 and Pepper Martin from 1934-38.
No. 2: 2B Red Schoendienst. Like Red, No. 2 Leo Durocher (Cardinal SS 1933-37) made a name as a manager.
No. 3: 2B Frankie Frisch. The Fordham Flash was numberless before donning this digit from 1932-36. Shortstop Edgar Renteria, a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold-Glove winner in six years with the Redbirds (1999 to 2004), also wore No. 3.
No. 4: C Yadier Molina. There will be strong fan sentiment to retire Yadi’s No. 4 as soon as he retires. After 16 years and counting, it will be hard to imagine anyone else wearing that number.
No. 5: 1B Albert Pujols. This number should be on the outfield wall as soon as Pujols enters the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Unless some are still bitter about his 2011 signing with the Angels.
No. 6: OF-1B Stan Musial. The greatest Cardinal, and the greatest No. 6, by a mile. One baseball-reference.com site says Rogers Hornsby wore this number in 1924, the year he hit .424, but another makes no mention of him ever wearing No. 6.
No. 7: OF Joe Medwick. If you could retire a number based on the aggregate accomplishments of multiple players, this one would qualify. Medwick was the last NL player to win the Triple Crown in 1937, No. 7 Solly Hemus was a first-rate 1950s shortstop, No. 7 Reggie Smith had a brief-but-outstanding run (1974-76) in St. Louis, and No. 7 Matt Holliday earned four All-Star berths from 2009-16.
No. 8: CF Terry Moore. A standout center fielder, Moore wore No. 8 for seven years, starting in 1939. He’s not to be confused with the actress from Mighty Joe Young and Come Back, Little Sheba.
No. 9: OF Enos Slaughter. A 10-time All-Star, Slaughter was a long-time outfield teammate of Moore and Musial. Joe Torre wore No. 9 for six St. Louis seasons, including his 1971 MVP year.
No. 10: 1B Johnny Mize. While manager La Russa’s No. 10 has been retired, Mize was the best Redbirds player to wear the number. He averaged 109 RBI per year from 1936-41 and twice finished runner-up in MVP voting.
No. 11: P Howie Pollet. A fine lefty pitcher during the 1940s, Pollet twice won 20+ games and led the NL with a 2.10 ERA in 1946.
No. 12: 1B Bill White. One of the newest members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, White was a five-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner from 1959-65.
No. 13: IF Matt Carpenter. For the past eight years, Carp has been one of the Cards’ best and most versatile performers.
No. 14: 3B: Ken Boyer. Why retire his No. 14? Because Boyer’s 58.1 Cardinals WAR is higher than that of Hall of Famers Slaughter, Simmons, Brock, and Mize.
No. 15: CF Jim Edmonds. Edmonds had a tremendous run in St. Louis from 2000-07. Fine catchers who wore No. 15 for this franchise: Walker Cooper (1941-45), Tim McCarver (1963-69, 73-74), and Darrell Porter (1981-85).
No. 16: OF Ray Lankford. One of the most underrated Cardinals, the stolid Lankford had the misfortune of following Willie McGee and preceding Edmonds as the team’s center fielder.
No. 17: P Dizzy Dean. A couple of garrulous guys wore this number, starting with Dean from 1932-37 and then catcher Joe Garagiola, who became a highly successful broadcaster, from 1946-51.
No. 18: OF-3B Mike Shannon. A long-time radio voice of the Redbirds, Shannon was a St. Louis native who spent his entire playing career, 1962-70, with his hometown team.
No. 19: C Tom Pagnozzi. Another career Cardinal, Pagnozzi appeared in 100+ games just three times from 1987-98 but made one All-Star team and won three Gold Gloves.
No. 20: OF Lou Brock. The franchise wasted no time retiring Brock’s No. 20, doing it in 1979, the year he retired.
No. 21: CF Curt Flood. His 1970 lawsuit vs. Major League Baseball has overshadowed the fact that Flood, a seven-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star, was a heck of a player.
No. 22: C Mike Matheny. He had five solid years (200-04) as the Cardinals catcher, winning three Gold Gloves, then returned for seven years (2012-18) as manager.
No. 23: C Ted Simmons. The best-ever NBA number (Michael Jordan, LeBron James) has been a good one for the Cardinals. Hall of Famer Simmons amassed a 45.0 WAR in 13 years (1968-80) in St. Louis and lefty pitcher Max Lanier compiled a 30.0 WAR in 12 seasons (1938-46, 49-51).
Outfielder Bernard Gilkey, another No. 23, had a 12.3 WAR from 1990-95, Fernando Tatis blasted two grand slams in one 1999 inning vs. the Dodgers, and No. 23 David Freese ruled the 2011 postseason.
No. 24: SS Dick Groat. This superior baseball number (Willie Mays, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., Pittsburgh’s Barry Bonds) is a weak one for the Cards. Groat had three good years (1963-65) with the Cardinals and finished runner-up to the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax for the 1963 NL MVP.
No. 25: 1B Mark McGwire. This is a three-way competition between Big Mac, with a 19.3 St. Louis WAR from 1997-01, outfielder George Hendrick (18.0 WAR, 1978-84), and second baseman Julian Javier (14.1 WAR, 1960-71). If you think McGwire’s PED use diminishes his accomplishments, then Hendrick or Javier would be your choice.
No. 26: P Kyle Lohse. Welcome to the weakest number so far. Twenty of the 31 Redbirds who wore No. 26 only did so for one year. Lohse, who struggled his first three years in St. Louis, turned ih first-rate seasons in 2011 (14-8, 3.39 ERA, 2.3 WAR) and 2012 (16-3, 2.86, 4.0 WAR).
No. 27: 3B Scott Rolen. In six seasons with the Cardinals (2002-07), Rolen made four All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves. Lefty starter-reliever Al Brazle spent his 10-year career with the Cardinals (1943, 46-54), going 97-64 with a 3.31 ERA and a 21.4 WAR.
No. 28: 2B Tom Herr. A ten-year Redbird (1979-88), Herr is best remembered for his lone All-Star season of 1985, a year in which, batting third behind Vince Coleman and Willie McGee (who combined for 166 stolen bases), he hit just eight homers yet drove in 110 runs.
No. 29: P Chris Carpenter. The above-mentioned Coleman wore No. 29 from 1985-90, but Carpenter was the team’s best to wear that number. Pitching for St. Louis from 2004-12, Carpenter won the Cy Young Award in 2005, finished third in 06, and came in second in 09.
No. 30: P John Tudor. Like Herr, Tudor peaked in 1985, winning 20 of his last 21 decisions and finishing 21-8 with a 1.93 ERA. In his five seasons with St. Louis (1985-88, 90), the lefty was an extraordinary 62-26 (.705 winning percentage) with a 2.52 ERA.
No. 31: P Harry Brecheen. Right-hander Bob Forsch, a Cardinal from 1974-88, and Brecheen (1940, 43-52) have virtually the same WAR (21.3 Forsch, 21.4 Brecheen) but the earlier pitcher gets the edge with his postseason pitching — the lefty was 4-1 with an 0.83 ERA in seven World Series games.
No. 32: P Steve Carlton. While the Phillies got Carlton’s best years, he was plenty good with the Redbirds, going 77-62 with a 3.10 ERA from 1965-71.
No. 33: P Vinegar Bend Mizell. Here’s your fourth straight lefty. Wilmer David Mizell, who pitched for the Cardinals in the 1950s, had desultory St. Louis numbers (69-70, 3.72 ERA) but generated a 16.0 WAR and had one of the all-time great nicknames.
No. 34: P Danny Cox. The Cards had a Hall of Famer who wore No. 34 for four days in December of 1980, but then they traded Rollie Fingers, along with Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich, to the Brewers. A Redbird from 1983-88, Cox peaked with an 18-9 record and a 2.88 ERA in 1985.
No. 35: P Matt Morris. This 6-5 right-hander had several standout seasons from 1997-05, making two All-Star teams and finishing third in Cy Young voting after going 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA and a 4.1 WAR in 2001.
No. 36: P John Denny. Like Carlton, his Phillies teammate from 1982-85, Denny started with St. Louis but had his best years in Philadelphia. According to WAR, Denny was the Cards’ best player in 1976, when he went 11-9 with a league-leading 2.52 ERA, and ’78, when he was 14-11 with a 2.96 ERA.
No. 37: 1B: Keith Hernandez. Because of “Seinfeld” and his years as a New York broadcaster, many associate Hernandez more as a Met than a Cardinal, but he had his best seasons in St. Louis. From 1974-83, the slick-fielding first baseman hit .299 with an .833 OPS and won six Gold Gloves. Hernandez led the NL with a .344 batting average, 48 doubles, and 116 runs scored in 1979, the year he shared the MVP with the Pirates’ Willie Stargell.
No. 38: P. Todd Worrell. In his first full season in 1986, Worrell had a 2.08 ERA, led the NL with 36 saves, and was voted Rookie of the Year. In his six years in St. Louis (1985-92 minus ’90 when he was injured), Worrell saved 129 games with a 2.56 ERA
No. 39: P Al Hrabosky. Maybe this should go to Larry Jackson, an eight-year Cardinals pitcher (1955-62) who won 101 games and made three All-Star teams, but the Mad Hungarian (1970-77) was more entertaining, plus he had a second career as a Redbirds broadcaster. Hrabosky was the NL’s top reliever in 1975 when he went 13-3 with a 1.66 ERA and a league-best 22 saves.
No. 40: P Andy Benes. The first player picked in the 1988 June draft, Benes had some good years with the Padres and was OK as a Cardinal, going 52-37 with a 4.25 ERA over five seasons (1996-97, 2000-02).
No. 41: P Lindy McDaniel. After a strong season as a starter in 1957 (15-9, 3.49 ERA), McDaniel would make his mark as a St. Louis reliever from 1959-62, leading the NL in saves in 1959 and ’60.
No. 42: P Bruce Sutter. It’s tempting to go with No. 42 Harvey Haddix (1952-56) over Sutter, who had his name retired in 2006. A three-time All-Star with the Cards, Haddix won 20 games in 1953 and his 12.1 St. Louis WAR easily trumps Sutter’s 6.3. But Sutter’s relief efforts in the 1982 postseason (2-0 record, 3.00 ERA, three saves, 0.750 WHIP) played a key role in the Cardinals championship.
No. 43: P Joe Hoerner. Joe who? He’s all but forgotten now, but the lefty Hoerner, who threw sidearm, was a key reliever on the pennant-winning 1967 and ’68 teams. From 1966-69, Hoerner went 19-10 with a 2.10 ERA and 59 saves.
No. 44: P Jason Isringhausen. You could easily select starter Ray Washburn (1961-69) here. Wash was 14-8 with a 2.26 ERA for the ’68 team, but Isringhausen is a Cardinals Hall of Famer and the team’s all-time leader with 217 saves.
No. 45: P Bob Gibson. Any questions? Gibby (1959-75) is the team’s all-time leader in wins (251), strikeouts (3,117), complete games (255), shutouts (56), and WAR for pitchers (81.7).
No. 46: P Kevin Siegrist. Yeah, there’s not a lot of competition for No. 46. Siegrist did a nice job from 2013-17, compiling an 18-10 record, a 3.03 ERA, and an average of 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
No. 47: P Joaquin Andujar. No NL pitcher won more games in 1984 and ’85 than Andujar and the Met’s Dwight Gooden, each with 41. A Cardinal from 1981-85, Andujar was the team’s best starting pitcher in 1982.
No. 48: P Jose DeLeon. A hard-luck hurler who twice led the NL with 19 losses, DeLeon had just a 43-57 record with St. Louis from 1988-92 but his ERA was 3.59 and he twice struck out 200+ batters, leading the league with 201 in 1989.
No. 49: P Ricky Horton. Another Cardinals broadcast voice, Horton, primarily a reliever, pitched for the Redbirds from 1984-87 and again from 1989-90, going 25-16 with a 3.44 ERA.
No. 50: P Adam Wainwright. Only Gibson has struck out more batters as a Cardinal than Wainwright (1776 Ks), who pitched in the Braves minor-league system but has spent his entire major league career (2005-10, 2012-19) with St. Louis. Wainwright ranks fourth in franchise history in wins (162, trailing Gibson, Jesse Haines, and Bob Forsch) and fourth in WAR for pitchers (36.6, trailing Gibson, Dean, and Brecheen).
No. 51: OF Willie McGee. A beloved Cardinal from 1982-90 and 1996-99, McGee’s No. 51 was very briefly worn by pitcher Bud Smith in 2001, but then the pitcher (who would throw the Cards’ most-recent no-hitter) switched to No. 52. Some want the No. 51 retired, and it was out of circulation from 2001 to 2018 before McGee, hired as a coach, resumed wearing his old number.
Why stop at 51? To honor McGee, of course. Also because there are few good Cardinals with higher uniform numbers. The best post-51 Cardinal number was the No. 57 won by the late Darryl Kile, who died of a heart attack on June 22, 2002, at age 33.
Kile was 41-24 with a 3.54 ERA and a 9.6 WAR in just two-and-a-half seasons with St. Louis. His No. 57 has been taken out of circulation, meaning no Cardinal will wear it until further notice — or till it’s retired. Lefty Jaime Garcia (2008, 2010-16), who wore No. 54 his last seven years with the Cardinals, also produced a 9.6 WAR.
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What will be the team’s next retired number? The best bet is Pujols’ No. 5, but if Molina retires as a life-long Cardinal, his No. 4 could very well be the next number on the outfield wall.