JUPITER, Fla. • For the first time since pitcher Josh Hancock died in an automobile accident early in the 2007 season, the Cardinals will issue his No. 32 to an active player at spring training.
Rob Johnson, a catcher who was signed to offer depth at the position for Class AAA Memphis, has been given 32. He was told of the number's previous owner before selecting it, and its use was done with the approval of the front office. Hancock's No. 32 was not officially retired, but taken out of circulation after his death. The black medallion with his number in white continues to appear in a few places at the ballpark.
The Cardinals have run into something of a numbers crunch when it comes to jerseys, a challenge each spring for the equipment managers.
The Cardinals have an array of officially retired numbers -- from No. 6 for Musial, No. 1 for Smith, No. 10 for La Russa, and No. 45 for Gibson to No. 85 for Busch. A total of 12 numbers are retired and emblazoned on the outfield wall at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals' number crunch has left them with very few single digits available. Nos. 1, 2, 6 and 9 are retired. Yadier Molina (No. 4), Matt Holliday (No. 7), and Carlos Beltran (No. 3) have theirs sewn on, and rookie Ryan Jackson wears the only remaining single-digit jersey (No. 8) that wasn't last owned by a three-time MVP who moved west.
That brings us to the handful of unofficially retired numbers, ones held out of circulation in case they are eventually retired or out of respect for the player. For example: Albert Pujols' No. 5, Mark McGwire's No. 25 (now that he's no longer the hitting coach), and Willie McGee's No. 51. Darryl Kile's No. 57, which like Hancocks' 32 appeared in a black medallion as a memorial following his death, has also not been issued in recent years, though it isn't officially retired.
A few of these numbers have been made available to recent players -- Troy Glaus, for example, was told he could wear No. 25, but turned it down -- but no player has opted to accept.
The No. 32 has been available in recent seasons, but no player sought it or selected it.
Worn by free agent Kyle Lohse during his time with the Cardinals, No. 26 won't hang unwanted this season. Trevor Rosenthal, marooned in the 60s last season, his first in the majors, has adopted No. 26. Here are some other number assignments and number moves for the coming season, according to the spring training roster:
No. 71 Sam Freeman, moved from No. 61
No. 27 Derek Lilliquist, pitching coach
No. 36 Randy Choate
No. 12 Ty Wigginton
No. 16 Ronny Cedeno
No. 46 J.R. Towles
No. 49 Blaise Ilsley, bullpen coach
No. 89 Greg Garcia, non-roster invitee
No. 72 Carlos Martinez, non-roster invitee
No. 79 Kolten Wong, move from No. 89 last spring
No. 87 Oscar Taveras, a non-roster invitee to major-league camp for the first time, no longer "Minor League Guy" in the 90s. He'll have a name on the back of his jersey.
No. 18 Bengie Molina, assistant hitting coach
That last number probably looks familiar.
Molina will inherit the number last worn by pitching coach Dave Duncan. The longest-tenured pitching coach in the game took a leave of absence from the club last season. He acknowledged that it was a de facto retirement as he spent the time at home with his wife as she battles cancer. Duncan wore No. 18 for 16 years with the Cardinals.
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