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Stars of the game count down days

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  • Stars of the game count down days

    Stars of the game count down days
    By Rick Hummel
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    The Busch Stadium regular-season dates are dwindling to a precious few. Only 21 numbers remain to be pulled off the right-field wall, but the Cardinals have saved some of their best for last.

    Four Baseball Hall of Famers and a future Hall of Famer, several broadcasting industry giants, arguably the world's greatest female athlete and a football Hall of Famer are scheduled to highlight the daily ceremony that takes place at the top of the sixth inning for every home game.

    The Cardinals will begin a six-game homestand Tuesday against Arizona and San Francisco. There will be just 15 home games spread over two homestands after that. Among those who are scheduled to pull down their old numbers this week are Hall of Famer Lou Brock (No. 20) and longtime Cardinals broadcaster and former Cardinals player Mike Shannon (No. 18).

    Before the season is over, Hall of Famers Stan Musial (No. 6), Red Schoendienst (No. 2) and Ozzie Smith (No. 1) will pull down their old numbers, as well as Cardinals All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols (No. 5) and football Cardinals Hall of Famer Larry Wilson (No. 8).

    Though there has been no official announcement, it is expected that broadcasters Bob Costas and Joe Buck will be involved in pulling numbers down, as well as track-and-field star Jackie Joyner-Kersee; former football Cardinals head coach Jim Hanifan; 1987 World Series hero Tom Lawless; the Busch family (Anheuser-Busch has acquired the naming rights for what will be the third Busch Stadium), and perhaps former Cardinals star Willie McGee, who missed out on pulling down No. 51 because of a miscommunication, according to the Cardinals' marketing department.

    Here is what you are likely to see this week:

    No. 21 - Todd Worrell. The former Cardinals reliever was unable to attend at No. 38, which he wore during his career.

    20 -Brock.

    19 - Former Cardinals Gold Glove catcher Tom Pagnozzi.

    18 - Shannon.

    17 - Former Big Red quarterback Jim Hart.

    16 - Former Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford, the all-time leader in home runs at Busch.

    Nos. 15-6 will be torn down during a home stand from Sept. 5- 14, with No. 6 a sure thing in Hall of Famer Musial and No. 15 not so sure in center fielder Jim Edmonds.

    "We're in trouble if (Edmonds) doesn't," said Valerie Kotys, who has been handling many of the negotiations for celebrities as part of the corporate sales staff. "We may have to go into one of our last-minute deals."

    Edmonds is said to be superstitious because the three previous active Cardinals who have pulled down numbers all had terrible games that night.

    On May 5, Ray King helped pull down No. 68 instead of relief ace Jason Isringhausen, who was scheduled to do so, because Isringhausen was getting his shoulder worked on. King later was the losing pitcher in an 8-3 loss to San Diego.

    On June 24, utility man John Mabry pulled down the No. 47 he has worn in three different tours with the Cardinals. Mabry went 0 for 4, striking out three times. On July 20, right fielder Larry Walker moved back a few steps to pull down his uniform No. 33. Walker had an even worse day than Mabry, striking out three times and hitting into a double play. After the game, a disgusted Walker threw the commemorative 33 into the trash.

    Kotys said the sales staff has concentrated first on bringing back players who wore particular numbers while playing for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, other former Cardinals players, stars from other teams such as Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr., and St. Louis sports legends.

    One of the most touching was when the family of late pitcher Darryl Kile made their first return to Busch Stadium since his funeral in 2002 and pulled down his No. 57.

    There have been a few glitches, Kotys admits.

    Former Cardinals outfielder Jose Cruz, now a coach with Houston, was in line to pull down a number when the Astros were here in April but, after the Astros had lost the first two games of the series, declined 20 minutes before game time. Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty was a reluctant fill-in.

    Former Cardinals outfielder Lonnie Smith was supposed to pull down his No. 27 during the last homestand. Smith apparently made other arrangements and disabled third baseman Scott Rolen, also a 27, pulled down the number.

    "I have no idea where (Smith) was," said Kotys.

    No. 25 was offered a couple of times, Kotys said. Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was asked but said he already had made vacation plans. Former Big Red placekicker Jim Bakken, who won almost as many games here as Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, was asked to pull 25 but Bakken declined because the rest of his family wouldn't be here to watch.

    Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a Florida Marlins executive who wore No. 24 while starring for the Cincinnati Reds was a more than suitable replacement at 25.

    Former Big Red cornerback star Roger Wehrli was unable to make it last Sunday to pull down his number, 22, along with former Cardinals slugger Jack Clark, who also wore that number.

    Then, there is Steve Carlton, something of a recluse since his playing days other than when he shows up at Cooperstown, N.Y., for the Hall of Fame ceremonies. Carlton was asked to pull down his No. 32.

    "We left several messages," said Kotys. "We offered to fly him in but I couldn't get him to return our calls."

    If your favorite doesn't show up to pull down a number by season's end, it is likely that he will turn up the last weekend of the campaign at a gala celebration for the end of Busch Stadium's 40-season history. Kotys said some 50 former Cardinals notables, including the all-Busch Stadium team, have been invited back for the season's final regular-season series with Cincinnati on Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

    Rick Hummel, who has covered the Cardinals and major league baseball for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 32 years, pulled down No. 78.

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy