Number 3 had a glorious run for the St. Louis Cardinals, from one of its’ earliest owners, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch (1932-38), on whose behalf the digit should have been retired long ago, to legendary teacher George Kissell (1969-75).
Three owners that followed in succession were each notable. In the 1980’s, number 3 was worn by another Cardinals coaching great, former catcher Dave Ricketts (1981-1991). The next season, star outfielder Brian Jordan took the number, which he wore until his departure as a free agent following the 1998 season.
In 1999, the Cardinals acquired former Florida Marlins World Series hero Edgar Renteria and made the quiet Colombian their newest number 3. The man manager Tony La Russa called “The Captain” remained with the club until feeling more “respected” by a free agent offer from the Red Sox following the 2004 season. His final play with St. Louis was the last out of the 2004 World Series against Boston (pictured).
Renteria’s fortunes took a dip as he was dealt to Atlanta and then Detroit as he completed the original Red Sox four-year contract. In the second year of a new, two-year deal with San Francisco in 2010, Renteria played in a career-low 72 regular-season games due to injury. Yet he stepped up in the post-season, earning the Most Valuable Player Award in the World Series.
La Russa had this to say about Renteria’s October performance. "He's a rise-to-the-occasion guy. I'm not surprised."
Following the World Series, Renteria put to bed his past hints of retirement, announcing his intention to return to the major leagues for at least one more season at the age of 34. It may not be with San Francisco however, as the club declined their $9.5 million 2011 option on the shortstop, making him a free agent.
Renteria has since clarified, stating his willingness to move to second base, a late career move that his successor with St. Louis, David Eckstein, has used to extend his starting years as a major leaguer.
A segment of St. Louis fans would like to see Edgar back in the Cardinals uniform to close out his career. He could offer a veteran alternative to shortstop Brendan Ryan and/or, if he could make the second base transition smoothly, could at least partially spell former outfielder Skip Schumaker.
On November 12, Renteria demonstrated his willingness, stating in an interview (in Spanish) in his native country that he prefers to retire as either a member of the Marlins or Cardinals.
Since Edgar left the Cardinals six years ago, at least eight players have donned the number 3. His former number also headed downhill, not always having been put to the best of use.
2005: Abraham Nunez – The journeyman had a career-best season filling in for the injured Scott Rolen at third base while wearing Cardinals number 3. Nunez departed for a big free agent contract with Philadelphia, but did not return to his 2005 level of performance. After a couple of lackluster years, he was soon out of the majors.
2006 spring training: Junior Spivey – The veteran second baseman (pictured) signed a $1.2 million contract and earned none of it, batting an ice-cold .200 for the season with Memphis. He never appeared in a regular-season game for St. Louis, or any other MLB stop afterward, for that matter.
2006-07: Preston Wilson – The former Mets and Rockies star was nearing the end of a fine career, but by then was hobbling on bad knees. The member of the 2006 World Champion club played in his final major league game on May 5, 2007.
2007: Miguel Cairo – It was during the veteran infielder’s brief, second stop with the Cardinals in August and September when he donned the number 3. Cairo was gone again after the season and has since worn at least three other clubs' uniforms.
2008: Cesar Izturis – The glove was there, but he didn’t hit enough to stick beyond one season with St. Louis.
2009: Khalil Greene – The shortstop arrived from San Diego as damaged goods and after a strong spring, lost his job and likely his career due to serious emotional issues.
2010 spring training: Ruben Gotay – The major league veteran neither made the big club out of camp as a non-roster invitee nor did he receive a call from Memphis despite the Cardinals having been in need of third base help for much of the season. He is now a minor league free agent.
2010: Felipe Lopez – Like Cairo, the infielder was on his second tour with the Cardinals after signing early in spring camp. He initially wore number 8 in 2010, moving to 3 after Gotay was cut. Lopez served as an emergency pitcher and was the regular third baseman for part of the year, only to be released in September for bad behavior.
Could a return of Renteria for 2011 restore some of the luster lost from the number 3 since his departure or would he become yet another example of an end-of-career “short stop” with St. Louis?
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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