1923 has been complicated. There are many claims that we have deciphered in this season, and it still might not be 100% accurate. One year after the debut of the Birds on the Bat, a new version with new birds and new letters was applied to the jersey. A new pinstriped uniform was worn that featured a single bird on a branch on the left breast of the jersey. The Cardinals wore candy-cane style socks this season.
At the suggestion of sports writer John Sheridan, the 1923 season marked the first time the team would wear numbers. These numbers were intended to help identify players on the field. An identification system hadn’t been used since their very first season in 1882. Branch Rickey reminisced in later years, saying “ridicule followed throughout the country, press wise and otherwise. More particularly, the players were subjected to field criticism from the stands and especially from opposing players… the effect upon the team was bad and busted up the team morale and spirit completely… Because of the of the continuing embarrassment to the players, the numbers were removed.” Photographic and newspaper evidence seems to contradict this claim from Rickey in two manners. One, numbers were not worn on the road uniform, so it is unlikely they would receive ridicule around the country. Two, we see photographic evidence of numbers continuing to be worn on the sleeve into 1924. For more information on early Cardinals numbers, see BirdBats.com.
Newspaper accounts this season claim the Cardinals wore the Single Bird as their primary weekday uniform, and the Birds on the Bat as their Sunday uniform. However, our collaborative research efforts with Jeff Scott at birdbats.com has lead us to refute the newspaper claim. According to our photo identification and Jeff Scott’s player number identification, we think the Cardinals wore the Birds on the Bat at home on weekdays and wore the Single Bird uniform on Sundays. We also believe that uniforms elements were mixed and matched. Both home uniforms could have been worn with either red or white caps, as well as solid red socks or candy cane socks. Jeff Scott has also identified that players in 1923 had two different uniform numbers, and it would appear that players wore one number for their Birds on the Bat jersey, and a different number for their Single Bird jersey. See Jeff’s notes below.
“The April 3 article suggests these are the home weekend jerseys.
According to newspaper accounts from April 3 and May 2, these single-bird uniforms are the weekday home set.
Assuming the players pictured above are identified correctly, the numbers in these photos match the April 3 article. So, that article has a list of should be the home weekday numbers.
I have scorecards from two home weekday games (Friday, June 15 and Tuesday, September 18) and one home weekend game (Sunday, September 23). According to these scorecards:
Blades wore #3 on weekdays, #2 on Sunday.
Flack wore #1 on weekdays, #3 on Sunday.
Hornsby wore #4 on weekdays, #6 on Sunday.
McCurdy wore #16 on weekdays, #11 on Sunday.
Bottomley wore #5 on weekdays, #4 on Sunday.
Toporcer wore #11 and 26 on weekdays, #12 on Sunday.
Shotton wore #24 on weekdays, #26 on Sunday.
Haines wore #31 on weekdays, #49 on Sunday.
Pfeffer wore #18 on Friday, unknown on Tuesday and Sunday (he played his last game on 9/8).
Toney wore #49 on weekdays, #51 on Sunday.
This would suggest the dual-bird jerseys were worn on weekdays, not on weekends – at least for the three games we can confirm with scorecards.
This would suggest the single-bird jerseys were worn on Sunday/weekends, not on weekdays – at least for the three games we can confirm with scorecards.”
— Jeff Scott, www.birdbats.com
The single bird above has been drawn with our best approximation. We have a handful of photos that show this uniform, none of which show great detail.
The numbers on the sleeve were described in the newspaper as being black.
St. Louis Star and Times: April 3, 1923
The Cardinals’ new uniforms for the 1923 campaign are now on display in the windows of the Leacock Sporting Goods Company, 921 Locust street. Each of the Knot Holers will be supplied with three outfits — one for road games, one for week days at home and one for Sundays at home. Every man will also have his individual sweater, cardinal in color, with a cardinal bird on a white background on the left side.
The unusual feature of the home uniforms is the numbering on the left sleeve. Each player has his particular number so that the fans can readily distinguish the players both in practice and in the game.
The home uniforms for Sunday wear are practically the same as last year with the exception of the socks, which are composed of a series of white and red stripes about an inch in width. The shirts and pants are white with two cardinal birds perched on a black bat across the chest and the black numbers on the left sleeve. The caps are white and have red braid around the edge this year and also a button.
The weekday outfits are new in that there is a single cardinal bird on the left side of the shirt. These uniforms are white with a blue stripe and numbers on the sleeve. The caps are red with a white button and braid around the bottom of the crown. Socks to be worn at home are the same design as last year.
Rickey’s clan will be clothed when away from home in steel gray uniforms with the two cardinal birds on the chest. The socks are gray with four narrow cardinal stripes. There are no numbers on the visiting outfits.
The uniforms, thirty in all, were designed and made by Leacocks.
The three largest of the lot, size 50, will be worn by Jeff Pfeffer, Tubby Clemons and Fred Toney. Johnny Lavan, Bill Sherdel and Max Flack share diminutive honors, each of this trio wearing size 42.
Bill Doak will again be seen in his usual jockey cap. Bill believes in plenty of shade for his eyes from the blinding sun and has the visors of his caps made to order about two inches longer than the usual length. Flack wears the smallest cap, size 6 5/8.
The Cardinal players, as they line up this summer, will be numbered as follows; Pfeffer, 17; Clemons, 14; Toney, 18; Ainsmith, 16; Myers, 10; Gainer, 71; Stuart, 8; Dyer, 21; McCurdy, 15; Shotton, 26; Barfoot, 20; Hornsby, 6; Mann, 11; Schultz, 61; North, 23; Bottomley, 4; Doak, 22; Blade, 2; Mueller, 7; Thomas, 25; Sugden, 24; Stock, 5; Torporcer, 12; Smith, 1; Sherdel, 31; Lavan, 9; Flack, 3.
St. Louis Star and Times: May 2, 1923
The Cards strode out on the field all dolled up in uniforms entirely different from the ones they had been wearing since their arrival home. The Rickeyites were adorned in a striped white suit, flaming red caps and socks with a Cardinal bird perched on a bar on the left side of the suit. Possibly this has some effect on the team’s luck.
The Brainerd Daily Dispatch: April 15, 1929
YANKEE PLAYERS TO WEAR NUMBERS COMING SEASON.
Babe Ruth and the other Yankee baseball players will wear numbers on their uniforms next season. This innovation was decided upon by Col. Jacob Rupert, president, and Edward S. Barrow, business manager of the world’s champions. The home run king will be “No. 3.”
Now that the Yankees have gone in for numbering their players, other big league clubs probably will follow suit. College and pro footballers have worn numbers for years and so have pro hockey players.
The experiment in baseball will not be new. Five years ago Branch Rickey, then manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, had numbers sewn on the sleeves of his players’ uniforms. But the figures were small and on the gray traveling uniforms did not stand out clearly and Rickey discarded them after two years. The Yankees’ numbers will be larger than those the Cardinals sported.
Cardinals Red – PMS 200
Vintage Yellow – PMS 1225