Retiring No. 24 Adds to Whitey's Emotion

Special night for new Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog planned for July 31 at Busch Stadium.

As if preparing himself emotionally for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony weren't enough, Whitey said he had a hard time keeping himself composed after what he was told Friday night. St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. informed Herzog that he'll be the 13th individual to have his number retired by the team.

The ceremony will take place Saturday, July 31, when the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium against Pittsburgh. Herzog's No. 24 will be retired among the other Cardinal greats.

"It really hit me. I didn't know it was going to happen. I really think it's a heck of an honor. Almost like Cooperstown is a heck of an honor," said Herzog. "I broke down a little bit."

It made him more concerned over whether he'll be able to compose himself for the induction ceremony.

Former Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter pitched in plenty of pressure cookers. Most notably in the World Series during the Cardinals 1982 championship season. So was he more nervous or less when delivering his speech in 2006?

"More than anything than I've ever done," he said without hesitation.

Ozzie Smith, who made all three trips to the World Series under Herzog (1982, '85 and '97), agrees. "All of those are big moments, but not any bigger than this because this means you've made it to the top of the mountain. That makes it very, very special."

Both Sutter and Smith predict that Herzog will try to thank as many people as possible in his allotted time. The hard part is thanking those who are no longer around like Casey Stengel and Gussie Busch. Herzog said Saturday that, while trying to hold up emotionally, he's going to try ‘wing it a lot of it' when asked about his speech preparation.

"I think for all of us it's nerve-wracking, especially when you're preparing your speech. You don't want to leave anybody out," said Smith. "None of us make it here without having someone or a gamut of people that have been instrumental in your life."

Herzog also has made no secret of his eagerness for Monday to roll around. That's when he'll finally be able to go fishing again.

Though the number retirement Saturday will be another special occasion, Herzog says it's typical of how he's felt treated under the current ownership.

"When the new ownership of the St. Louis Cardinals took over, although I wasn't a Hall of Famer, they treated me like one," he said. "Every time they had a function at the ballpark, Musial was there. Schoendienst was there. Gibson was there, Brock, now Ozzie (Smith), Bruce (Sutter) and so forth. I was included and I was not a Hall of Famer."

Herzog doesn't have to worry about that any more. He's one of them now.

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