Uniform number (Major League Baseball): Wikis


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As in many sports, a baseball player's (or coach's) uniform number has the purpose of identifying the player. However, it has come over time to have a much more significant meaning to the player and fans.[citation needed] A number can be symbolic of a player's legacy, and has resulted in all kinds of superstition. Uniform numbers are placed behind baseball uniforms and sometimes on the both the backs and fronts of uniforms.

The earliest photographic evidence of the use of uniform numbers comes from a 1909 Chicago Daily News picture of pitching great José Mendez.[citation needed] A legendary Cuban ballplayer,[citation needed] Mendez was a member of the inaugural class of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939[citation needed] and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. In the photograph, Mendez is seen in his Cuban Stars uniform with a number “12” on his left sleeve.[citation needed]

Inspired by hockey's and football's use of uniform numbers, the Cleveland Indians became the first big league club to experiment with numbered uniforms when they took the field at League Park in Cleveland, on June 26, 1916, donning large numerals on their left sleeves.[citation needed] The experiment lasted just a few weeks that season and, after a brief trial the following year, was abandoned altogether.[citation needed]

Not only were the Cleveland Indians the first big league club to wear uniform numbers, they were the first to wear numbers on the backs of their jerseys.[citation needed] The first MLB game to have both teams wear numbers on their jerseys was Indians vs Yankees May 13, 1929.[citation needed] The practice has often been credited as originating with the New York Yankees in 1929, as the reigning World Champions were scheduled to open the season donning uniforms with the new numbering style.[citation needed] However, rain cancelled the Yankees’ April 16 home opener, while the Indians were blessed with clear skies that same day. By, the mid-1930s, every major league had adopted uniform numbers, though it was not until 1937 that the Philadelphia Athletics donned numbers on their home, as well as road, uniforms.[citation needed]

At one time, a baseball player's number was specifically related to his place in the batting lineup.[citation needed] The Yankees regular starting eight, for example wore numbers 1 through 8, while the backup catcher wore number 9. Starting pitchers generally took numbers 10, 11, 12, and 14,[citation needed] (avoiding the superstitious #13, although some pitchers tried it, perhaps most notably the star-crossed pitcher Ralph Branca[citation needed]), while reserve pitchers and position players took the remaining numbers, 15 through 26 (as the roster usually is limited to 25 players.)[citation needed]

Today, in Major League Baseball, numbers are taken by players very much indiscriminately with regards to these positions.[citation needed] Only pitchers often have higher numbers than other players based on the old system, and certain numbers have been held by many high-profile players in a particular position.[citation needed]

Even to this day, low numbers are generally associated with being an everyday player, and many players try to get one, no matter what it is.[citation needed] This is also due to the fact that in Spring Training, Minor League Baseball players unlikely to make the roster are usually given very high numbers, and many players feel that the higher the number, the less likely you are to make the team after Spring Training.[citation needed]

In general, few regular players have numbers above the 50s, and most of those whose numbers are in the 50s are pitchers, though this trend has been changing in the past generation. Infielders tend to have the lowest numbers of all.[citation needed]


High profile players with high numbers

Notable exceptions to this rule include So Taguchi, the former St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder who wore #99, and Manny Ramírez, who wore #99 after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. His regular number, #24, belonged to Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston, and was retired by the Dodgers. His second choice, #34, belonged to Fernando Valenzuela, and is unofficially retired by the Dodgers [1]. Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams also wore #99. Albert Belle wore #88 when he played with the Baltimore Orioles 1999–2000. He had worn #8 with two teams before, but could not get it because of Cal Ripken Jr.[citation needed]

Longtime Major League infielder Rene Gonzales wore #88 throughout his career. Bill Voiselle wore #96 in honor of his hometown, Ninety Six, South Carolina.[citation needed]

Chan Ho Park has used the #61 throughout his career.

Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, and Francisco Rodriguez of the New York Mets wear #75.

Joe Beimel wore #97 during his time pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This marked the first time that a team had two different players wearing numbers in the 90s (along with Manny Ramirez).[citation needed]

Some players have reversed the digits on a number they had on a previous team. Carlton Fisk wore #27 when he was a catcher for the Boston Red Sox, and upon being traded to the Chicago White Sox, he switched his number to the highly-unusual baseball uniform #72. Red Sox pitcher Eric Gagné, who typically wears #38, was forced to wear #83 because #38 was not available with the Red Sox because long-time pitcher Curt Schilling had it.[citation needed] Upon signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, Gagne got his old number after Matt Wise was cut loose.[citation needed] The New York Mets' Francisco Rodriguez reversed his #57 from his days with the Los Angeles Angels when he signed with the Mets; #57 belonged to Johan Santana.

In 2006, J. T. Snow's final season, in which he played with the Red Sox, he wore #84, the number of his father Jack Snow in football, in his father's honor.[citation needed] This was the highest uniform number ever worn by a Red Sox player.[citation needed]

Many regular Yankees players now have higher than usual uniform numbers because the team has retired more numbers than any other team.[citation needed] For example, while playing for the Yankees, Melky Cabrera wore #53, and Hideki Matsui wore #55. Notably, these numbers were not assigned out of necessity; Cabrera wore #28 previously, but switched after a poor 2008 campaign and Matsui wore #55 in Japan,[citation needed] where numbers in the 50s are more common for position players.[citation needed] Another Japanese player, Ichiro Suzuki, wears #51 for the Seattle Mariners, the same number he wore in Japan.[citation needed]


While some players will wear several numbers throughout their careers as they move from team to team, others have become so attached to a specific number for some reason (including superstition), that try to acquire it as they join a new club.[citation needed]

In some cases, the number is available on a player's new club.[citation needed] Other times, the number will already be in use by another member of that team (or sometimes retired).[citation needed] When this occurs, the player will occasionally ask the other player to change numbers, in order to surrender that number to the newcomer.[citation needed] Some players holding a number in such a case will voluntarily make such a change, while others may need to be "bribed" in order to do so.[citation needed] For example, when Rickey Henderson was traded to the Blue Jays in 1993, he paid new teammate Turner Ward $25,000 for the #24 that Henderson had worn throughout much of his career, and that Ward had been wearing at the time.[citation needed]

Some players, who are unable to get the number they had on their previous team, will obtain a number close in succession.[citation needed] For example, Roger Clemens wore #21 during the first 15 years of his career with the Red Sox and Blue Jays, and during his college days at Texas.[citation needed] When he joined the Yankees and Astros, he switched to #22. Upon Clemens' arrival in New York, he reportedly asked long-time Yankee outfielder Paul O'Neill to surrender his #21, but O'Neill refused.[citation needed] Though he would eventually opt for #22, Clemens initially reversed his beloved #21, and wore #12.[citation needed] Clemens continued to wear #22 upon signing with his hometown Houston Astros in 2004 and, upon resigning with the Yankees, Robinson Canó, owner of #22 at the beginning of the 2007 season, moved to #24 in anticipation of the Yankees possibly re-signing Clemens, leaving #22 available for Clemens.[2]

Omar Olivares requested the number #00 to represent his initials (O. O.) while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.[citation needed] Another recognizable name is Jeffrey Leonard, who also wore #00 on his uniform.[citation needed] To this day, they remain one of the select few Major League players to wear that number.[citation needed]

Junior Ortiz wore #0 as a member of the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, a reference to his last name beginning with "O".[citation needed] Al Oliver also wore #0. In fact, when Oliver was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985, Cliff Johnson wore #00, making it possibly the only time in pro sports history that a team had a '0' and a '00' at the same time.[citation needed]

Dave Winfield, who wore #31 for the first 18 years of his Major League career with the Padres and Yankees, wore #32 with 3 different teams between 1990 and 1994. He once again wore #31 in 1995, the final year of his career, when he played for the Indians.

In his first career game, Eric Davis did not have a jersey number.[citation needed]

As shown in the last section, many players have reversed their numbers, as in the cases of Fisk, Gagne, and (briefly) Clemens. Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers wore #32 during his time with the Red Sox, but then switched the digits around to #23 when he signed with the Dodgers after the 2004 season because #32 was retired in 1972 in honor of pitcher Sandy Koufax's induction into the Hall of Fame.[citation needed] Another notable example was Randy Johnson when he played for the Yankees. He wore #51 as a member of the Seattle Mariners, but when he joined the Yankees, that number was already taken by popular veteran outfielder Bernie Williams, and he could not reverse the digits to #15 because it was retired for catcher Thurman Munson, so therefore he chose #41 because he was 41 years old at that time.[citation needed] Johnson then returned to wearing #51 when he re-joined the Diamondbacks.

From his debut until June 20, 2008, Blue Jays reliever Jesse Carlson wore #43. On that particular day, he had to switch his number because Cito Gaston, who came back to manage the team, wore #43 as a player and manager during his last managing stint, and he wanted it back. Carlson now wears #39.[citation needed]

For some players, the uniform number plays an extension beyond the game. For example, according to the 1987 Topps card for Joaquín Andújar, he has decorated his home with his uniform #47.[citation needed]

Numbers of pitchers

Pitchers tend to have higher uniform numbers in general.[citation needed] It is extremely rare for a pitcher to wear a single-digit number, a fact that at times has been noted, though there is no policy against this, and there are some exceptions.[citation needed]

Retirement of Numbers

The most legendary players, managers, or coaches on a team will sometimes have their uniform number retired, so that future players and coaches cannot wear those numbers with that team. Only the player with the retired number can wear that number if he returns to that team as a player or coach. Generally, such retirements are reserved for the very best, who in most cases, have impacted the entire league, and are most memorable.

The first Major League Baseball player to have his number retired was Lou Gehrig (#4). #4 and #5 have each been retired by 8 teams, more than any other number. The Yankees have retired a total of 16 numbers, more than any other team. The highest player uniform number to be retired was Carlton Fisk's #72, but the Cardinals retired #85 in honor of their one-time owner August Busch, Jr.. Though he never wore a uniform, that is how old he was at the time of the honor. The Cleveland Indians retired the #455 in 2001 in honor of "the fans", to commemorate the then-longest home sellout streak ever (although MLB does not allow any team to issue three-digit uniform numbers).

Four players and one manager, Casey Stengel, have had their numbers retired with more than one team. Nolan Ryan had two different numbers (#30 and #34) retired between three different teams.

The Toronto Blue Jays do not retire numbers, but rather have an alternative method of honoring their players called the 'Level of Excellence'.[3]

In 1997, Major League Baseball, for the first time ever, made a Major League-wide retirement of a number, when #42 could not be issued to any new players, having been retired in honor of Jackie Robinson, although all players who currently wore the number upon the mass retirement of #42, such as Mo Vaughn and Butch Huskey of the Red Sox and Mets, were allowed to keep it under a grandfather clause if they were wearing the number in honor of Jackie Robinson. The only player who still wears #42 is Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Robinson played, had already retired the number in 1972 after Robinson's death.

However, the #42 would be worn by a number of players other than Rivera in 2007, which marked the 60th anniversary of Robinson's first appearance in Major League Baseball (the event that broke the sport's 20th-century color line). Before the season, then-Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. asked Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig for permission to wear #42 on April 15, the anniversary date of Robinson's historic game. Both gave their approval, and Selig later ruled that any player who wished to wear #42 on that date could do so. Three teams and several individual players on other teams wore #42 on that date; three other teams whose plans to wear #42 collectively were postponed due to rain on that date did so later in the month.

Some feel that Roberto Clemente deserves a similar honor, and that #21 should be retired by all teams. Clemente opened the doors for Hispanics to play Major League Baseball, just like Robinson did for African-Americans. #21 is retired by Clemente's team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was worn by Sammy Sosa throughout his career as a tribute to his childhood hero.[4]


External links


Simple English

Uniform numbers are used to tell and identify different baseball players's and coach's. Over time, numbers can have a much more meaning to the player and fans. A number can be symbolic of a player's legacy, and has resulted in all kinds of superstition (or rumors). Uniforms numbers are put on the backs of baseball uniforms.

Retired numbers in Major League Baseball

Many teams retire numbers of important players who used to play for their team. Retiring a number means that nobody on that team can use that number anymore. Players' numbers are not retired while they are still playing baseball.

The number "42" was retired by all of Major League Baseball in 1997 because it was used by Jackie Robinson, who was the first black player in Major League Baseball. Players who were already wearing #42 were allowed to keep using the number, but nobody else could use it. As of 2010, New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was the last player using #42.


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