Yesterday, Gabe opened up ‘Jersey Week’ here at VEB by naming the best Cardinal to wear each uniform number. Today, we’re staying on the subject of uniform numbers with a look at some of the stories that led to various Cardinals players wearing the number they do.
Players’ attitudes towards numbers can range from an indifferent “just give me whatever’s available” to that time when John Lackey traded Pat Neshek a signed Babe Ruth baseball for No. 41. After a harrowing expedition that even ventured beyond the first page of the Google search engine results, I was able to track down the jersey number origin stories for six members of the current 40-man roster.
Paul DeJong, No. 12
When José Oquendo returned from leave, DeJong returned the No. 11 he wore as a rookie in 2017 back to the Cardinals third base coach. “He’s always helped me,” DeJong said. “For what he’s done for me, giving him his number back was a no-brainer.”
Carlos Martínez, No. 18
Martínez switched from No. 62 in 2013 to No. 44 in 2014 to No. 18 in 2015 to honor his late friend Oscar Taveras. Martínez has also written the No. 18 on his cap and on the mound in past games to pay tribute to Taveras and other late players like José Fernández and Yordano Ventura.
Jack Flaherty, No. 22
Flaherty moved up from 32 to 22 last season following the vacancy at 22 created by Mike Matheny’s departure in 2018. “I liked it. I like guys who wear it,” Flaherty said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview.
Dexter Fowler, No. 25
Since 2009, Fowler has worn No. 24 every season with the exception of his 2014 campaign in Houston, where 24 is retired for Jimmy Wynn, and his time in St. Louis, where the Cardinals retired 24 for Whitey Herzog in 2010. Since signing with the Cardinals, Fowler has opted to wear the same No. 25 that his mentor, Barry Bonds, wore with the Giants.
Paul Goldschmidt, No. 46
In peak Paul Goldschmidt fashion, the first baseman “chose” No. 44 during his tenure with the Diamondbacks simply because it was the number in his locker when he arrived to the big leagues. Upon being traded to St. Louis, he selected the closest available number. Goldschmidt said he would never ask another player to give up their number (Luke Gregerson was wearing No. 44 at the time) and with No. 45 retired for Bob Gibson, 46 it was.
Daniel Ponce de Leon
Ponce de Leon didn’t actually change his number (62 since his initial callup in 2018), but he did alter the reading of his last name on his jersey from Poncedeleon to Ponce de Leon last year. He explained in a story for STL Baseball Weekly that Ponce de Leon is the traditional spelling in his family, but the surname was condensed into one word on his birth certificate for clarity.