Note: Viva El Birdos and many other SB Nation sites are participating in theme weeks. Two weeks ago, we reminisced on the 2004 club; today, Gabe is leading off ‘Jersey Week’ with a look at the best Cardinals by their uniform number. Enjoy! - J.C.
As fans, we associate players with the number they wear. Sometimes, we can become so familiar with a player and the number associated with them, that we can answer trivia questions about what number a certain player was wearing who only played for a couple seasons, an absolutely absurd thing to know, but which nonetheless can stick in your brain. So to start off Jersey Week, I will be naming the best player to wear every number on the Cardinals.
#0 - 0.6 fWAR
Kerry Robinson is probably more well-known for his presence in Three Nights in August than for his actual play. Robinson thought of himself as a much better player than he actually was, which isn’t unusual for a professional ballplayer. He was a fifth outfielder for three seasons for the Cards, from 2001-2003, and was only really good in one of them. But he’s also the only one to wear 0, so he gets the top spot.
#00 — -0.1 fWAR
One great career, one solid one here. Unfortunately, neither player was good the year they wore this number for the Cards. Omar Olivares I guess just wore #0 for the 1993 season, and he was effectively a replacement pitcher, but that was better than Bobby Bonds’ 1980 season for the Cardinals.
#1 - 59.5 fWAR
This one obviously belongs to Ozzie Smith, Hall of Fame shortstop for the Cardinals whose number is retired. But some other great Cardinals also wore this number, namely Pepper Martin, Whitey Kurowski, and the guy Ozzie replaced, Garry Templeton.
#2 - 31.1 fWAR
There’s no real competition for Hall of Fame second baseman Red Schoendienst, which is probably a virtue of Red playing in a much earlier era. His number is also retired.
#3 - 19.2 fWAR
Hot competition here from two players with weirdly comparable careers as Cardinals. Both Edgar Renteria and Brian Jordan were great in some seasons, below average in others. Jordan’s great seasons were better than Renteria’s, so he gets the #3 spot. Frankie Frisch also wore #3, but unfortunately, the Cardinals didn’t have numbers (or didn’t record the numbers) for most of his Cardinal career so we just get the tail end for him.
#4 - 54 fWAR
When Yadier Molina retires in 2025 and gets put in the Hall of Fame in 2031, #4 will be retired in Yadi’s name. Pretty good competition here actually though, as Cardinals Hall of Famer Marty Marion wore #4 most of his career. Rogers Hornsby wore it for two seasons and Jim Bottomley for one. I should probably say Yadi is why #4 is my favorite number, but it’s actually Fernando Vina, my previous favorite player. I wore #4 for my entire childhood in any sport I could.
#5 - 81.4 fWAR
When Pujols is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2026, unless he retires earlier, #5 will be retired as well. Not a tremendous amount of competition for this number actually.
#6 - 126.8 fWAR
Stan Musial had his number retired in 1963, so because of that only 8 players in the history of the Cardinals have worn this number. One of them was Red actually, who wore it only for the 1945 season when Musial was fighting in World War II.
#7 - 38.5 fWAR
This one isn’t really a competition, but there are a few great player here. Matt Holliday falls just short, but I’m sure just about everyone reading this will associate #7 with him. And JD Drew was pretty great in his time. But this belongs to Hall of Famer Joe “Ducky” Medwick, whose iffy HOF credentials are not due to his time as a Cardinal, where he was always great.
#8 - 14.7 fWAR
Dylan Carlson, you have a chance to make #8 your own, because this is one of the weaker ones for such a low number. #8 belongs to Terry Moore, who wore this number from 1939-1948. He mostly won it because he’s the only guy to wear the number that played for more than a few seasons with it. I really thought Gary Gaetti might be the winner of this one, so thank you Terry.
#9 - 47 fWAR
Obviously this goes to the Hall of Fame outfielder with his number retired, “Mad Dash” Enos Slaughter. Despite playing around the same time as Musial, his number wasn’t retired until 1996, so Joe Torre, Roger Maris, and Terry Pendleton all wore #9 while they played for the Cardinals.
#10 - 37.6 fWAR
I’m going to ignore Tony for this selection, because we actually have a Hall of Famer who wore this number. Well Hall of Famer as a player I mean. Johnny Mize wore #10 from 1936-1941, and he had 37.6 fWAR in those seasons.
#11 - 23.6 fWAR
Clear winner here from the 1940s. Lefty Howie Pollet - that just sounds like a lefty name, doesn’t it? - wore a different number for his debut season, but after than he wore #11 for the remainder of his Cardinal career.
#12 - 24.7 fWAR
Paul DeJong has a good shot of being the leader of this number, but for now it belongs to first baseman Bill White, who wore the number from 1959-1965. We also probably remember Lance Berkman wearing this number in his brief Cards tenure.
#13 - 30 fWAR
Older players are a bit of a disadvantage in this game. They appear to change numbers more commonly than happens now. Mort Cooper also was #13, but not until his fourth season. Matt Carpenter would still have narrowly got it, but it would have been closer.
#14 - 50.7 fWAR
It probably goes without saying that this is Ken Boyer. He got his number retired in 1984, so quite a few no name guys got his number after he left the Cards.
#15 - 42.3 fWAR
The standard has been set. Jim Edmonds will not have his number retired unless he makes the Hall of Fame. I do not believe that will ever happen, so it will remain free for any player to take. Matt Holliday took #15 for 2009 only and Dick Allen in his lone season with St. Louis. Catchers Tim McCarver, Darrell Porter, and Walker Cooper also had #15 on the back of their jerseys.
#16 - 40.5 fWAR
See if I’m a new player and I do my history on what numbers to pick, this is the kind of number I’d avoid. Which I wouldn’t even have the option right now, because it belongs to Kolten Wong. But before him, there was Ray Lankford. So that’s two players who fans would think of before me if I had #16. One of the weaker members of the Hall, Jesse Haines, also wore this at the end of his career and it probably says a lot that a clear non-Hall of Famer has him beat.
#17 - 36.8 fWAR
Essentially, the Sandy Koufax of his time, because Dean was elected for the Hall on the basis of the six seasons he wore #17 really. Also probably doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall, but definitely deserves to be the name associated with #17 on the Cards. (That may be misconstrued. I do think Koufax deserves it)
#18 - 14.6 fWAR
Andy Van Slyke would surely have gotten this place if he had remained with the Cards and Keith Hernandez would have had he kept #18, but the winner goes to current Cardinal Carlos Martinez. Also you older folks who reminisce on the ‘82 Cardinals really forgot to mention Gene Tenace, who just has video game statistics as a backup catcher. 21.8 BB%? A 140 and 168 wRC+. This is the backup catcher! What the hell?
#19 - 10.8 fWAR
Tommy Edman, the floor is there for you to take this. A whopping 55 players have worn #19 for the Cardinals, and the vast majority weren’t here long. Jon Jay and Tom Pagnozzi both left their mark, but Woody Williams and his pretty short run is the winner here.
#20 - 41.6 fWAR
Lou Brock, with his number retired, is obviously the man for #20. There really weren’t many players who kept #20 for more than a few years before Brock came around so he had them beat pretty quickly in his Cards tenure.
#21 - 36.2 fWAR
Another easy winner here with Curt Flood donning #21. Medwick wore the number when he returned to the Cards at the end of his career, and Max Lanier had a few good seasons with this number, but it’s all Flood here.
#22 - 11.3 fWAR
To my surprise, the answer is not Jack Clark. Clark had one great year, one good year, and one not so good year, which didn’t quite beat Reggie Cleveland. Cleveland had three pretty good years, which added up to more than Clark. Jack Flaherty, current haver of #22, is surely going to top this lit soon.
#23 - 49.1 fWAR
Not sure it’s going to happen, but now that he’s in the Hall of Fame, there’s a case for retiring Ted Simmons’ number. Max Lanier wore this number for some seasons, and more recently, David Freese and Marcell Ozuna have worn it.
#24 - 11.3 fWAR
Retired in 2010 for White Herzog, this spot would have belonged to a different player if not for, ironically enough, Herzog. Ken Oberkfell had more fWAR as a Cardinal, but stopped wearing #24 in 1982. So this goes to shortstop Dick Groat instead.
#25 - 21.9 fWAR
I was pretty sure this was going to be Mark McGwire, until I noticed Julian Javier played here with this number for a long time. Javier turns out to be a much worse player than I thought, so my first instinct was in fact correct! George Hendrick had a nice run here as well, but wasn’t quite here long enough.
#26 - 9.5 fWAR
This is a weaker number, but I do appreciate that it gives me an excuse to give Kyle Lohse his due as a Cardinal. Not many other people played with this number for more than a couple seasons. Eli Marrero did, but he he was mostly a backup catcher so he didn’t come close to Lohse.
#27 - 26.9 fWAR
We all know who has this number, however I will mention that there are a few players who would have placed number one on the previous number. Lonnie Smith, Todd Zeile, and Al Brazle would have all been at the top if you changed the 7 to a 6. But of course, Scott Rolen is far and away the leader here.
#28 - 18.2 fWAR
Some good Cardinals have worn #28. Octavio Dotel, Pepper Martin, Orlando Cepeda, Vada Pinson, Joe Medwick, and Will Clark all wore #28 for a season or less. It’s also been on the back of Tommy Pham, Colby Rasmus, and Pedro Guerrero. But this number, for now and probably a while, belongs to Tom Herr.
#29 - 27.5 fWAR
I largely expected Chris Carpenter here, but I expected some competition. Very few good players actually get this number. Cardinals fans from the 80s will of course remember Vince Coleman for this as well.
#30 - 14.1 fWAR
There’s a really good year and a not great year from Orlando Cepeda, the very end of John Smoltz’s career, and the unattached arm of Mark Mulder here. It’s pretty easily John Tudor, who fWAR underrates quite a bit. He’s 19.9 by bWAR, which is a better WAR for pitchers over full careers.
#31 - 33.7 fWAR
#31 has been home to some good pitchers, pitchers who remained with the Cardinals for a decent while. The answer could be Bob Forsch, here from 1974-1988, or Lance Lynn, here from 2012-2017. Bob Gibson even had this number for one season. But Harry Brecheen is the winner, who was around for three World Series appearances and two wins.
#32 - 21.1 fWAR
I really wanted it to go to Ernie Broglio, just because he’s considered the bad side of the famous trade, but he was actually very good with the Cardinals. But Steve Carlton was here just long enough to beat him.
#33 - 10.8 fWAR
The fantastically named Vinegar Bend Mizell somehow didn’t play in the 1800s, but in fact the 1950s. He played with this number for his first two seasons, fought in the Korean War, and then didn’t get this back until his last season and a half. Luckily for him, he pitched so well in just 3 and half seasons, that he easily wins. I thought Larry Walker might take this, but just not here long enough.
#34 - 11.8 fWAR
Another one that 80s Cardinals fans should know - and if you didn’t I hope me pointing out the 80s helped - this belongs to Danny Cox. Nelson Briles came close, but Cox really benefits from being with a number that tends to go to players who don’t stay long.
#35 - 24.5 fWAR
Facing no competition whatsoever is former Cardinals ace Matt Morris. It currently belongs to Lane Thomas, who will have a very good career if he even comes close to this number. In recent years, it’s belonged to Greg Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and the very fun numbers to look at Joel Pineiro.
#36 - 7.4 fWAR
Good number to pick for a Cardinal minor leaguer, as basically nobody has established themselves with this number. The leader of this number is John Denny. Murry Dickson and Bryn Smith had it for a couple seasons, but nope it goes to John Denny.
And that covers Part 1. I’m going to take a wild guess and say most of part two will involve pitchers and that quite a few numbers will be on the lower side. Through 36 numbers, there weren’t actually that many weak numbers, but the numbers that have traditionally been given to bullpen pitchers? I expect those to be low.