(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)
The St. Louis Cardinals have retired 12 numbers — eight players, three managers, and a billionaire.[table “” not found /]
Ozzie Smith, 1
Smith is the best defensive shortstop in baseball history and one of the most popular players ever to play the game. He was not a great hitter, but he did develop into a decent one — his OPS+ from 1984-92 was 99, which means he was basically league average. And league-average offense from any shortstop is valuable; league-average offense from the best defensive shortstop in baseball history is downright irreplaceable. Or if you want to put a number on it, it was worth 50.8 WAR in that nine-year span, an average of 5.6 per year.
Smith is famous for defensive highlights and trademark acrobatics, but one of his most famous highlights is his walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series. Jack Buck’s call of this home run — “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” — is not just a response to the walk-off home run, but to the fact that Ozzie had hit only 14 home runs in his eight-year career leading up to that point, and he had never hit one left-handed.
Smith retired in 1996 after spending the last 15 years of his career with the Cardinals. The team retired his number 1 that same year, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Enjoy this highlight video from Smith’s career. The 1985 NLCS homer is at about the 0:45 mark.
Stan Musial, 6
According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Musial is the third-best right-fielder in baseball history, behind only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Musial played his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals, hitting 475 home runs and winning three National League Most Valuable Players Awards. His .331/.417/.559 batting line is good for a 159 OPS+, the 14th-best mark in history.
Musial led the NL in batting average seven times, RBIs twice, triples five times, doubles eight times, hits six times, and runs scored five times. He had 13 top-ten finishes in the MVP voting, including nine top-five finishes. His 3,630 career hits are fourth on the all-time list, his 725 doubles are third, and 1,951 RBIs are seventh.
The Cardinals retired Musial’s number 6 when he retired in 1963. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, and he died in 2013 at the age of 92. No one wore number 6 for the Cardinals after Musial, but Red Schoendienst wore it in 1945 when Musial was serving in the military during World War II.
Slaughter is best known for his “Mad Dash” around the bases in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, when he scored from first base on a single by Harry Walker that the scorekeeper generously called a double. Here’s a video of that play:
Slaughter spent 13 seasons with the Cardinals, interrupted for three years by his service in World War II from 1943-45. He had five top-ten finishes in the MVP voting (including second place the year before he left for the War and third place his first year back). He was a very good player for several years but his peak was short, and there were allegations that he was one of the leaders of the racial animosity toward Jackie Robinson (which Slaughter denied).
The Cardinals traded Slaughter to the New York Yankees in 1954, and he spent the last six years of his career between the Yankees, the Kansas City A’s, and the Milwaukee Braves. He retired in 1959, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1985. The Cardinals retired his number 9 in 1996, and he died in 2002. Slaughter’s number was worn by Debs Garms during Slaughter’s time in the military, and after his departure it was worn by Bill Virdon, Bobby Del Greco, Jim King, Ray Katt, Tim McCarver, Hal Smith, Minnie Minoso, Bob Uecker, Roger Maris, Joe Torre, Ken Rudolph, Steve Swisher, and Terry Pendleton.
Ken Boyer, 14
Boyer was the best of the three Boyer brothers to play in the big leagues. His brother Cloyd was a pitcher for five years, and his brother Clete spent 16 years as an infielder, mostly for the Yankees. Ken was the star third baseman for the Cardinals from 1955-65, winning the 1964 MVP Award and making seven All-Star teams.
The Cardinals traded Boyer after the 1965 season, and his last four years were pretty lackluster. After batting .206 in 25 games in 1969, Boyer chose to retire at the age of 38. He coached in the Cardinals system for several years, and he managed the team from 1978-80. Boyer never received more than 25.5 percent of the Hall of Fame vote, but the Cardinals retired his number 14 in 1984. Before it was retired, it was worn by George Kernek, Ron Davis, Steve Huntz, Terry Hughes, Luis Alvarado, Dave Rader, Julio Gonzalez, Jim Adduci, and Rafael Santana.
Dizzy Dean, 17
The ace pitcher for the famous “Gashouse Gang” St. Louis teams of the 1930s, Dean played just 12 years in the big leagues, seven of them with the Cardinals. From 1934-36, he went 82-32 with a 2.96 ERA, winning the MVP Award once (in the days before the Cy Young Award) and finishing second twice. In 1937, Dean was pitching in the All-Star Game when Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians hit a line drive off of Dean’s foot, fracturing his big toe. Dean rushed back from the injury and ended up changing his pitching delivery to favor the toe, which caused an arm injury that ruined his fastball and ultimately led to the premature end of his career.
Dean retired in 1941 at the age of 31, although he mad a one-game comeback with the St. Louis Browns in 1947. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953, and the Cardinals retired his number 17 in 1974, the same year he died. After Dean’s departure from the Cardinals, his number was worn by Joe Stripp, Guy Bush, Lynn King, Hal Epps, Ira Hutchinson, Walker Cooper, Erv Dusak, Frank Demaree, Augie Bergamo, Joe Garagiola, Wally Westlake, Les Fusselman, Sal Yvars, Vic Raschi, Mel Wright, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Ed Olivares, Jerry Buchek, Fred Whitfield, Jim Beauchamp, Carl Warwick, Bobby Tolan, Vic Davalillo, Matty Alou, Bill Voss, and Tommy Cruz.
Lou Brock, 20
Brock was a poor-hitting outfielder who ran well but didn’t bring much else to the table and, approaching his 25th birthday, looked like he might never amount to much. Ernie Broglio was a 28-year-old pitcher who could be counted on for 200 above-average innings every season. In June 1964, Brock’s Chicago Cubs and Broglio’s Cardinals made a trade, and the rest was history.
Broglio went 7-19 with a 5.40 ERA in 213.1 innings across three seasons with the Cubs and was done at age 30. Brock batted .297/.347/.414 with 888 stolen bases for the Cardinals, leading the league in steals eight times and landing in the Hall of Fame. Brock was part of the 1964 and 1967 World Series champion Cardinals teams, and he made six All-Star teams.
Brock retired in 1979, and the Cardinals immediately retired his number 20. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Bruce Sutter, 42
Among those elected to the Hall of Fame as players (meaning Tony La Russa‘s playing career doesn’t count), Sutter has the second-lowest WAR, ahead of only Lloyd Waner, who was elected because 22 years after the fact the voters on the Veteran’s Committee couldn’t remember which Waner brother was good. (Hint: It was the one the BBWAA elected already.) Sutter was a very good closer for several years, and he won the 1979 NL Cy Young Award when he saved 37 games with a 2.22 ERA for the Chicago Cubs. He also pitched just long enough to have 300 career saves, the last 40 of which came with the Atlanta Braves and were accompanied by a 4.55 ERA. A case could be made that Sutter would be more worthy of the Hall of Fame if he had retired with 260 saves and a 2.54 ERA (152 ERA+), but the three lousy years at the end got him to a magic number, and that got him elected.
Sutter is also credited with being the first pitcher to effectively use the split-finger fastball, which earned him some brownie points with the voters. He had 127 of his 300 saves with the Cardinals, and when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, the team retired his number 42. Of course, it had already been retired for Jackie Robinson throughout the league, so there was no harm done in retiring it again for an undeserving Hall of Famer who spent four years with the team.
Bob Gibson, 45
Gibson was a famously fierce competitor whose name comes up often these days, along with Don Drysdale, in discussions about how much better the game was in the good ol’ days. Gibson’s 1968 season was spectacular even in the context of ’68 being the “Year of the Pitcher” in which pitching was so dominant it led to rule changes. Even by 1968 standards, Gibson’s 1.12 ERA was amazing, a 258 ERA+ that is the sixth-best mark in history.
In his 17-year career spent entirely with the Cardinals, Gibson went 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA (127 ERA+) and 3,117 strikeouts. He had five 20-win seasons and won two Cy Young Awards (1968 and ’70) and one MVP (’68).
Gibson retired in 1975 at the age of 39, and the Cardinals immediately retired his number 45. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot, 1981.
Schoendienst played 15 seasons with the Cardinals (19 seasons overall) and was a perfectly good second baseman. Since his retirement as a player, he has been a constant presence in St. Louis, serving as a coach, manager, and executive with the team. He remains employed by the Cardinals to this day as an honorary coach, and 2015 marked his 70th year in the major leagues as a player, coach, or manager.
Schoendienst did not deserve election to the Hall of Fame as a player, but he got it anyway, most likely as sort of a lifetime achievement award that bundled his playing and post-playing careers into one. He was elected by the Veteran’s Committee in 1989, and the Cardinals retired his number 2 in 1996.
Tony La Russa, 10
As we alluded to in the Sutter section, La Russa was not a great player. Put more accurately, he was terrible, posting a -0.7 WAR in parts of six seasons. But he was a great manager for the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, and Cardinals. He led the A’s to three straight American League pennants and one World Series title, then he led the Cardinals to three NL pennants and two World Series championships.
La Russa retired after the 2011 season and the Cardinals retired his number the next year. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014. He currently serves as the Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Whitey Herzog, 24
After taking the Kansas City Royals to the playoffs three times in the 1970s, Herzog moved across the state of Missouri and took over as the Cardinals manager in 1980. He led the Cardinals to the World Series championship in 1982 and National League pennants in 1985 and ’87. The Cardinals style of baseball in the 1980s was often called “Whiteyball,” with a focus on speed, defense, and pitching. Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, John Tudor, Joaquin Andujar, and many others were staples on these Whiteyball teams.
Herzog finished his managing career in 1990. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010, and that same year the Cardinals retired his number 24. After Herzog the number was worn by Bryan Eversgerd, Tom Urbani, Dmitri Young, Rich Croushore, Eric Davis, Bobby Bonilla, and Rick Ankiel.
Augustus Busch Jr., 85
Busch was the owner of the Anheuser-Busch beer company, succeeding his father and brother in that role. When the Cardinals went up for sale in 1953, Busch heard that the team might be sold to an ownership group that wanted to move the team to Houston. He persuaded the previous owner, Fred Saigh, to sell the team to him for less than he was being offered by the other group. For $3.75 million, Busch became the owner of the Cardinals, a role he would maintain until his death in 1989.
In 1984, the Cardinals retired the number 85 in Busch’s honor. They chose 85 because he was 85 years old. No one has ever worn 85 for the Cardinals.
Honored: Rogers Hornsby
Hornsby was one of the best hitters in baseball history, leading the National League in batting average seven times and batting over .400 three times. His .358/.434/.577 batting line is good for a 175 OPS+, the fifth-best mark of all time. Throw in the fact that he did all that great hitting as a good defensive second baseman, and you have one of the truly elite players in baseball history.
But 12 of Hornsby’s 13 seasons with the Cardinals came before they wore uniform numbers. He wore number 4 for 46 games with the team in 1933, but from 1915-1926 he was numberless. So when the Cardinals decided to honor him upon his retirement in 1937, they did so with an unnumbered banner.
Unofficial: Darryl Kile, 57
Kile was a pitcher for the Cardinals when he died unexpectedly in 2002. He was the first active player to die during the season since Thurman Munson in 1979. Since his death, the Cardinals (along with his former teams, the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros) have not issued his number 57.
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