First player/coach to wear #16: Harry McCurdy (1923)
Last player/coach to wear #16: Kolten Wong (2014)
Player/coach to wear #16 in the most seasons: Ray Lankford (12 total)
Number of players/coaches to wear #16: 43
Last time not worn: 2011, but Bryan Anderson wore it in 2010 and 2012.
It was way back in 2007 that I first took notice of Anderson and actually decided he was the future of catching in St. Louis. I saw this left-handed hitting catcher who could spray the ball all over the place and knew he was just what the Cardinals needed. They may have already had the best defensive backstop in the league but offense wins out in the end, right?
I wasn’t alone in thinking Anderson would someday get his shot, but then two things happened prior to the 2008 campaign. That all-world defensive catcher (some guy who we will be talking about in oh, 12 days) simplified things offensively and took off just as the rest of baseball started getting on the Anderson bandwagon. He was rated among the best catching prospects in the game and was about to get a whole lot more attention. Not bad for a 21-year old who joined the Memphis Mafia and seemed destined to get a call-up to the show that summer.
It should be noted the Cards employed possibly the one manager in all of baseball who could care less about prospect rankings. TLR only had eyes for winning in October, and there just wasn’t room on the roster for a rookie in 2008 or 2009. Injuries played a part in there as well, but the truth of the matter will always be that Anderson was baseball’s version of solid gold currency. Much in the same way that Stephen Piscotty appears now, a player not on the 40-man roster holds plenty of value in trade talks and well, Anderson was a young catcher after all.
2010 appeared to be the coming-of-age season for #16 who did get to play under the Arch for the first time. The first stay was short-lived, however, as it took a tragedy for him to return. The kickin’ Cueto game happened that August, and Anderson would get another shot with the Birds on the Bat. His downfall could be attributed to any number of things, but it was fairly telling that the ‘art’ of catching was not his strongest tool. He never made it back to St. Louis during the World Series run and actually appeared at first base more than behind the plate his final season with the Cardinals.
The prospect game never seems to have a right answer, and today’s number will represent that in full force. It would have been much easier to pick a Hall of Famer, the coach’s son, or the long-time center fielder. I was even tempted by the postseason heroics of the current owner of the jersey, but it was all too easy for me. Anderson will always be that cautious reminder that sometimes the game just knows which path to take, and that is what keeps me coming back. I’m fascinated by the theatrics of the game even when screaming at the TV or just thinking the solution is a sweet-swinging lefty catcher.
We are getting close to the home stretch in our countdown with only a few questions left to be answered and drop me a line @1892ot with who you think is the best #16!