Countdown to Cardinals: 45

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Days until Opening Night, Cardinals vs. Cubs on ESPN: 45

First player/coach to wear #45: Gordon Jones (1954)

Last player/coach to wear #45: Bob Gibson

Player/coach to wear #45 in the most seasons: Gibson (17 total)

Number of players/coaches to wear #45: 7

Last time not worn: Technically 1995, but only since Gibson was coaching that season.  So actually 1975 when it was retired.

Other interesting names tied to #45: Dick Littlefield (1956), Von McDaniel (1957-58)

(Information from Birdbats)

In doing research for some of these numbers, it became apparent that extra attention needed to be paid to some of the lesser known names. Part of that was due to the history of the Cardinals, but mostly it had to do with a curiosity of sorts. Instead of only focusing on St. Louis Hall of Fame players such as Bob Gibson, I felt this series would be a good time to look behind the curtain of the storied Birds on the Bat.

While Gibson made the 45 famous, it was actually his third different number with the Cards. It was well traveled before finding a final home and a spot on the outfield wall at Busch. Six different St. Louis hurlers donned the jersey in six seasons with a couple of interesting stories mixed in as well.

Dick Littlefield was no stranger to swapping numbers or relocation, as he was the second Cardinal to make 45 his own. That lasted less than a month, however, as he was dealt to the New York Giants along with Red Schoendienst in what can only be described as his second biggest transaction.

What could be bigger than a deal with a future member of the Hall of Fame you may ask? In December of that same year, Littlefield was moved across town from the Giants to the Dodgers but never suited up for Brooklyn. It seems the other participant in that deal, icon Jackie Robinson, refused to report and voided the deal.

As fascinating as baseball is now, I’m still awed by how different the game was before the minor league system as we know today was installed. I present the case of Von McDaniel, who on May 23, 1957 signed with St. Louis as a bonus baby after celebrating his 18th birthday the month before.

Fast forward to June 13th and look who joined his brother Lindy in the Cardinal rotation. This would not be the second coming of the Dean brothers though as Von’s last appearance in the majors came on May 11, 1958 to complete one crazy turn of the calendar. Gibson had the more traditional route up the ladder, spending two full seasons and parts of two more mostly at the AAA level before dominating the 1960’s.

Words can not do justice for how impressive the stats are for Gibson. There will never be anyone as dominant as his 1968 campaign but try these figures on for size. In 304.2 regular season innings, a total of 38 earned runs scored. Even more impressive to me was out of 34 starts, Gibson finished with 28 complete games, 13 shutouts and somehow still lost nine games.

Congrats to the first of many Hall of Famers to come as the run on hurlers continues! Only a month and half to go before the unveiling of new Wrigley as the Cardinals look to be rude guests as much as possible in enemy territory. It is just the sort of environment Gibson would be happy to toe the rubber for, displaying the famous scowl in Chicago one more time.

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