star outfielder Matt Holliday first
joined the St. Louis Cardinals via trade last July, he was assigned number 15. A
segment of fans anxious for the club to retire the number in honor of former
centerfielder Jim Edmonds railed at
the decision. This despite the fact that former St. Louis hitting coach Hal McRae yielded the number to
Holliday after having donned the digits during the previous two years after
the trade of Edmonds.
the 2009 season, Holliday admitted he was uncomfortable with wearing it and
announced at the signing of his seven-year, $120 million contract on January 7
that he was switching to the number 7 for 2010.
all that, it was with a bit of surprise that the 15 jersey was trotted out again
so quickly. En route to his major league debut, outfielder Jon Jay received it upon his promotion
from Triple-A Memphis on April 26. He had previously worn numbers 88 and 68 in
successive Cardinals spring training camps.
25-year-old obviously lacks the veteran status of the others who had worn the
number in recent years but appreciates its significance.
Edmonds is a great player,” Jay said this week. “I followed him growing up as a
left-handed hitting centerfielder myself. He was an All-Star many times (four
times in total, including 2000, 2003 and 2005 with St. Louis) and was a great
representative of the Cardinals and the city.”
being dealt to San Diego prior to the 2008 season, Edmonds was released, played
a partial season with the Cubs, went unsigned, sat out a season, lobbied
unsuccessfully to return to the Cardinals, signed with Milwaukee instead, made
the club this spring and is playing well for the Brewers. He turns 40 next
or not Edmonds
is a Hall of Famer is an open question that will take years to get a firm hold
on. Players become eligible for the voting process five years after their
are many who believe that if a player is not judged to be Hall-worthy, then his
number should not be retired by the Cardinals, either.
its history, the club has many more Hall of Famers than retired numbers. Back in 2007, I noted
that of the 225 players then in the Hall, 33 had played for the Cardinals at one
time, while 13 were with the club longer than any other during their
supporters, as did Willie McGee
backers previously, could argue a precedent has been established in that there
is one number from a non-Hall-of-Fame player from among the group retired by the
Cardinals. That is the number 14 of former player and manager Ken Boyer. (In addition to ten
ex-players, number 85 was retired for the late owner and non-Hall-of-Famer Gussie Busch and broadcaster Jack Buck was honored without a number
open case aside, there are many deserving Cardinals Hall
of Famers who wore non-retired numbers, old-time greats like Jim Bottomley, Frankie Frisch and Ducky Medwick. Then we have Whitey Herzog’s induction this summer
and Tony La Russa sure to be voted
other words, the Cardinals will continue to face a quantity of retirement
decisions. Some are and will be more difficult than others.
is exacerbated by the fact the club lacks a formal retired number policy. During
Winter Warm-Up, team president Bill
DeWitt III offered encouragement when he disclosed he would be studying the matter.
This week, however, a Cardinals spokesman said there is no new news on that
have proposed an alternative, a second, lower-level honor for those not quite at retired-number status. This would allow proper recognition of former Cardinals greats without further compromising the retired number situation, reserving it for the very best of the organization's many Hall of Famers from different eras.
any policy, ownership can make controversial decisions
like the 2006 retirement of the number of Bruce Sutter despite the player having
been with the club only four seasons. Number 42 had already been retired across
baseball out of respect for Jackie Robinson, but like the Boyer decision in 1984, the Sutter move established a
very questionable precedent.
addition to the formally-retired numbers, there are the ones not being used out
of respect for the player, such as the #32 of the late Josh Hancock and #57 worn by
Darryl Kile before his untimely passing. The informally-retired
#51 of McGee was once the subject of a fan petition drive to make the move
permanent. Number 25 was also in indefinite mothballs prior to the return of Mark McGwire this
number 15 is not among them. Its newest owner has a history with the number that
helps to explain its assignment to him.
is a birthday number for me – I was born on March 15. I have worn it for years –
back to my USA summer team
and most recently with Memphis each of the last two seasons,” Jay
is coming off an April in which he was named the Cardinals Minor League Player
of the Month by both the Cardinals organization and
had a good start,” Jay explained. “All the hard work paid off. There are a lot
of very good hitters in that league (the Pacific Coast League). My friend Daniel Descalso (leading the PCL in
RBI) also had a great month. I hope he wins it (the award) in
course, no matter the number, the first-time major leaguer is hoping he isn’t
required to don the Memphis threads ever again. So far, Jay is
doing his part, honoring his current uniform with his solid play, including four
straight pinch hits and a .385 average in his first nine games with the
Brian Walton can be reached via
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