The Redbirds lower numbers have pretty good legacies. 1 and 2 have been retired. 4 and 5 have been taken by contemporary Cardinals stars for close to a decade. And of course 6 is the quintessential retired number for the Greatest St. Louis baseball player ever. But there’s a lonely number 3, that has had new names stitched above it, for the greater part of a decade. Of course, Carlos Beltran proudly wears the single digit, and should be the first player to wear it consecutive seasons since….well….we’ll get to that.
Working backwards, number 3 in 2011 was donned by Ryan Theriot. The season before that, Club Flip….Felipe Lopez wore it in his second stint as a Cardinal, but not his first. And he did not end the season with the Birds. He followed the tradition laid before him in 2009 by Khalil Greene, who was the cleanup hitter on opening day, but out of the system by the end of that year as well. In 2008, Cesar Izturis tried the tiny number on for size, but was only here a year also. Miguel Cairo’s second stint with the Cards in ’07 had him performing bench duties with the number 3 on his back. He was issued that number in mid season after Preston Wilson succumbed to injury. But Wilson is actually the last player to have that number for 2 seasons as he was part of that World Championship run in 2006. In 2005, super sub Abraham Nunez was given the number. He began the merry go round of that numeral that we still see today.
That number is remembered possibly by old time Cards fans as the first one given to Whitey Herzog when he became the Cards field manager in 1980, before he changed in 1981 to the familiar 24 that has since been retired. Whitey’s long time bullpen coach Dave Riketts, was a former catcher for the Birds, and mentor to backstops, including Yadier Molina. Ricketts stayed on the major league staff through 1991 holding on to number 3 all those years.
In 1992, a very green, but also ultra talented player with mass amounts of potential took the number 3 and held it for most of the 90’s. Brian Jordan grew into a multi-tool outfielder and kept that 3 through his career in other places as well. After Jordan, another young talented player wore the number and is probably best remembered for having it on his back by fans. Edgar Renteria played stellar shortstop and drove in big runs from 1999-2004. Renteria was the last player to hold that number for a good amount of time.
For history sake, Ray Blades was the first player to be assigned the 3. It was 1923, and the Cards were one of the first teams to put numbers on the jersey, although they positioned them on their sleeves only. Hall of Fame infielder and player-manager at the time, Frankie Frisch wore the number most of the 30’s during the Gas house gang period. Other notable people to wear it were 50’s infielder Don Blasingame, Harry the hat Walker as a coach in the late 50’s, and the great George Kissel who coached under Red Schoendiesnt in the 70’s. Its been quite a history for the number 3 in Cardinals history.