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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Diamond Dirt: Cardinals may be in a bind

  • The Cardinals have knack for retiring a player's number when they go into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, or when it's obvious they're on their way to enshrinement — hence the retiring of Tony La Russa's No. 10 last year.
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  • Upcoming baseball hall of fame enshrinements could include a former Cardinal favorite.
    Former closer Lee Smith is a high possibility for election by the baseball writers.
    The Cardinals have knack for retiring a player's number when they go into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, or when it's obvious they're on their way to enshrinement — hence the retiring of Tony La Russa's No. 10 last year.
    The Cardinals retired No. 24 for Whitey Herzog when he went in and when it was announced that Bruce Sutter was going into Cooperstown as Cardinal, his No. 42 — retired by all of baseball in 1997 for Jackie Robinson — was given double honor to include himself.
    Smith going in as a Cardinal is slim, since he played a majority of his career with the Cubs, but the possibility still remains. He spent two full seasons with the Cardinals and parts of 1990 and 1993 with St. Louis after being traded in from Boston and traded away to the Yankees. His No. 47 went on to be worn by popular players John Mabry — now the Cardinals hitting coach — and Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick had his moment in the sun and the fans loved him, but he's moved on. He'll be remembered as wearing No. 47, but not being No. 47.
    Since 1994 when Mabry came up as a player, No. 47 has been his number. In every stint he had with St. Louis, and even now as a coach, No. 47 has belonged to Mabry. Should Lee Smith go in the baseball hall of fame as a Cardinal and the team decides to retire his number, the new Cardinals hitting coach would look odd with a different number on his back. And just for the record, the only other numbers Mabry wore in his career were No. 17 and No. 7. Neither can be worn in St. Louis because No. 17 is retired for Dizzy Dean and No. 7 is currently worn by Matt Holliday.
    It all boils down to the big if of Smith going in as a Cardinal.
    Would the Cardinals be willing to part with No. 47 and forever have it named for Smith? Doing so would make him the shortest tenured Cardinal with a retired number. That honor currently goes to Sutter.
    And something else to consider is if No. 47 should forever belong to Mabry. He's not going to be in the hall of fame, but he is and always will be a special Cardinal. Certainly the team would want to consider that before anything else. The number has been worn by many players, but Mabry has more identity to it than Smith.
    If it were up to me I'd let Mabry have it and retire it in his honor when the time was right. For all we know he could be a manager some day.
    Page 2 of 2 - Unfortunately it only seems the Cardinals are only interested in retiring the numbers of hall of famers. If they weren't, Willie McGee's No. 51 would be on the Busch Stadium facade and printed on the outfield wall.
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