Days until Opening Night, Cardinals vs. Cubs on ESPN: 17
First player/coach to wear #17: Bill Doak (1923)
Last player/coach to wear #17: Tommy Cruz (1973)
Number of players/coaches to wear #17: 31
Last time not worn: 2014
As we get into the retired numbers, we may continue to run into the problem I found myself dealing with today. When you search for pictures of Dizzy Dean, you can find them, but there aren’t many pictures of him actually playing. Instead, there are posed shots where Old Diz is facing the camera, which would normally work, save one little problem.
The uniforms of that day didn’t have a number on the front of them.
I thought I might then branch off and go down the Garagiola path, but the same issue cropped up then. There weren’t many of Joe playing (and given his reputation as a much better baseball speaker than baseball player, that might not be too surprising) and the ones that were didn’t show his number either. Even Alou didn’t help me out, as most of his limited time with the Cardinals is immortalized in head shots on baseball cards.
Which is fine, because it gives me a chance to talk about one of the features I love the most about Busch Stadium. Every park has retired numbers somewhere around their facility. The Cubs have theirs on flags, which is pretty neat. Most folks have the numbers on the wall or in a visible section of the outfield. However, no one honors not only the number but the person like the Cardinals. While they have the numbers on the bricks above the stands, they also have that wonderful collage of numbers and images out in left field.
It’s an amazing snapshot of Cardinal history. Seeing images of Ozzie Smith next to Rogers Hornsby next to Lou Brock next to Dean, it really helps you get a feel for what those players were like and how the greatness has stretched from the earliest days of the club to the modern day. I’m not sure whose idea that was, but it was a wonderfully classy one and they should be rewarded.
There’s no doubt Dean deserved to be up there, though you wonder if he had his career these days if he’d been as highly regarded. Dean was a shooting star who burned extremely bright and then was done. He had five really great years in St. Louis and another good one, but that was it. He lingered around for four years with the Cubs, but he wasn’t the same after hurting his arm after adjusting his mechanics due to a broken toe. He came back and pitched one game for the Browns after being retired for six years, but that was more a publicity stunt than anything. (However, Diz did throw four scoreless innings in that outing. As bad as the Browns were, you’d think they’d have been intrigued.)
Dean may be the first instance of a PR Hall of Famer. Would someone without Dean’s colorful character and flair for quotability have gotten into the Hall with a record of 150-83, even with a career ERA of 3.02? He was a great player, don’t get me wrong, but I think he probably got a little boost from being a good old Arkansas boy. (Hey, works for me!)
The days are just flying by now, aren’t they?