Days until Opening Night, Cardinals vs. Cubs on ESPN: 37
First player/coach to wear #37: Ray Blades (1939, coach)
Last player/coach to wear #37: Pat Neshek (2014)
Player/coach to wear #37 in the most seasons: Ray Sadeki (eight years; seven in one stint, then again in 1975)
Number of players/coaches to wear #37: 33
Last time not worn: 1996
While we finally break through this pitching run with a hitter today, it’s not for lack of hurling options. Many of us fondly remember Suppan’s time with the Redbirds. He may have had his moment of infamy by being tagged out off of third in the 2004 World Series, but then led the squad two years later back to the Series, where they captured the title. We also remember when he struggled with other teams, then came back to St. Louis in 2010 and posted surprisingly good numbers as the Cards unsuccessfully tried to fend off the Reds. While he didn’t have a long time in SL, he’s going to be remembered as a guy that gave it all he had, even if he didn’t have all that much.
There was also Mr. Bottenfield, who had perhaps the flukiest 18 win season ever. Today, nobody would even dream of trading for a guy like that. Do you realize that up to that point, he’d won 18 games total in the big leagues? Even back then, when the win meant a lot more than it does now, it seems crazy to think that someone looked at an outlying season like Bottenfield’s 1999 (18-7, 3.97 ERA) and not only wanted to acquire him, but gave up what turned out to be a Cardinal Hall of Famer for him. If nothing else, this Bottenfield/Jim Edmonds trade was what Walt Jocketty’s reputation was made on. Bottenfield won only ten more games in the next two years and didn’t even make it through one season in Anaheim before being shipped off to Philadelphia. But for what he brought back, he’s part of Cardinal history. He and Ernie Broglio can pal around.
However, Hernandez really stands head and shoulders above most anyone else that’s put on the 37, and I say that not just as a hat tip to Matt Philip, a long-time Hernandez fan. While a lot of us–myself included, as he was already over there before I started paying attention–think of Hernandez as a New York Met, he spent a majority of his career (10 years) under the Arch, where he put up a 130 OPS+ and was co-MVP in 1979. Only Willie McGee and Albert Pujols have won that hardware since he did.
Here’s what tells you he played in a different era, however. You don’t associate speed with Hernandez, at least I don’t, but he put up 50 triples while in St. Louis. He only had 10 in New York, which meant he really took advantage of his home ballpark. That cavernous Astroturfed stadium was perfect for a gap hitter to try for three, no matter how middling his speed.
The good thing about Hernandez? We’ll be hearing him soon as the Cards and Mets play on MLB Network on March 19 and 20, likely giving us the SNY team at least one of those days. Something to look forward to!