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Friday, August 23, 2019

How players are using uniform numbers to break MLB’s unwritten rules

Nontraditional numbers have become the norm in New York, where all but one single-digit jersey is retired by the Yankees. Aaron Judge’s 52-homer, Rookie of the Year run in 2017 helped make his rare No. 99 the best-selling jersey in the country—and on baseball’s most iconic uniform, to boot. Judge was simply handed the number in spring training in 2016—and he has stuck with it ever since. “He’s a create-a-player, like someone that you max out all the stats on and then they’re just wearing No. 99,” said outfielder Clint Frazier, who himself wears No. 77, making him just the second Yankee to do so.

“Numbers that used to be regarded as spring training numbers, numbers in the 70s, 80s and 90s, while they’re not common, they’re no longer unheard of for the regular season and I do think in some instances, like Aaron Judge wearing 99 and some others, they are a form of self-expression,” said Uni Watch founder Paul Lukas, now a staff writer at Sports Illustrated. “At least with some of the higher numbers, you can trace this back to Wayne Gretzky wearing 99, which was just as unheard of in hockey at the time, and then Mario Lemieux wore 66 as his inverted tribute to Gretzky. This may be a rare instance of hockey affecting the uniform culture of another sport.”

When the Yankees signed reliever Adam Ottavino this past offseason, they issued No. 0 for the first time in team history. Ottavino never felt particularly attached to a number growing up, so his dad suggested wearing 0 for Ottavino.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 23, 2019 at 01:50 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: uniform numbers

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   1. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5873818)
I'm still wondering what the over/under is on the date the Yankees will be forced to go to triple digits.

And on the flip side of this, Marcus Stroman sports #7 on the mound for the Mets, a rarity that a pitcher wears a single digit -- he might be the first in club history.

EDIT: He is, indeed, the first unidigit pitcher in Mets' history.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:35 PM (#5873821)
"No, Trevor Bauer, you can't wear #420."




"And not 69 either. Go away."
   3. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:42 PM (#5873828)
The only rules regarding the numbers is that they must be printed at least 6 inches tall and no two players on the same team can have the same number (obvious exception is made on Jackie Robinson Day). There isn't even a rule that they have to be whole numbers. However, if players started wearing non-whole numbers, my guess is that the commissioner's office would make a rule.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:44 PM (#5873829)
However, if players started wearing non-whole numbers, my guess is that the commissioner's office would make a rule.
No, the union would say it has to be bargained, and Manfred would meekly agree.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:45 PM (#5873831)
I am profoundly unaware of uniform numbers. I don't know the uniform numbers of the best players on my favorite team. And I had no idea that pitchers rarely wore single digits.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:52 PM (#5873836)
I would really love for a player who wears #9 to use "Revolution 9" as his walk-up music.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 23, 2019 at 04:34 PM (#5873856)

The only rules regarding the numbers is that they must be printed at least 6 inches tall and no two players on the same team can have the same number (obvious exception is made on Jackie Robinson Day).


Well, also they can't use "42".
   8. caspian88 Posted: August 23, 2019 at 05:07 PM (#5873866)
Someone should use an irrational constant as their uniform number - pi or Planck's Constant and the like.
   9. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: August 23, 2019 at 05:10 PM (#5873871)
Pitchers who wear single digit uniform numbers are terrible people and should be imprisoned at least a billion years.
   10. Brian C Posted: August 23, 2019 at 05:26 PM (#5873879)
I can honestly say that I've never cared for a moment about uniform number protocol. I never even realized that single-digit numbers are unusual for pitchers.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: August 23, 2019 at 05:38 PM (#5873886)
I never even realized that single-digit numbers are unusual for pitchers.


It's not just unusual. There's typically between 0-2 active pitchers in the league with a single-digit number at any given time.
   12. Baldrick Posted: August 23, 2019 at 06:18 PM (#5873895)
I am profoundly unaware of uniform numbers. I don't know the uniform numbers of the best players on my favorite team. And I had no idea that pitchers rarely wore single digits.

Same.
   13. JAHV Posted: August 23, 2019 at 06:27 PM (#5873898)
Pitchers who wear single digit uniform numbers are terrible people and should be imprisoned at least a billion years.


Why? Why is this a thing? I'm legitimately confused on this one.
   14. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 23, 2019 at 06:44 PM (#5873901)
In Japan, some players wear triple digit numbers such as 106 or 122. These are developmental players, who are outside the limit of 70 players that can be signed by an organization (that includes players on both the NPB roster and their minor league team). Developmental players wear triple digit numbers to differentiate them from players on the 70-man roster, but can still dress for NPB and minor league games and play, at least in the latter. You can see two of them in this shot of the celebration after the last out ofthe 2014 Japan Series.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: August 23, 2019 at 07:07 PM (#5873909)
Why? Why is this a thing? I'm legitimately confused on this one.


I couldn't tell you exactly why it got started, but it's been a thing for as long as I've been a baseball fan (40-plus years). And I've gotten so accustomed to it that on the rare occasions I see a pitcher with a single-digit number, it looks wrong to me.
   16. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 23, 2019 at 07:38 PM (#5873914)
Why? Why is this a thing? I'm legitimately confused on this one.
Didn’t the earliest uniform numbers correspond to the player’s position in the batting order? Maybe that’s how it got started.
   17. Itchy Row Posted: August 23, 2019 at 07:39 PM (#5873915)
The article says it started when the Yankees made uniform numbers popular. The position players wore their usual lineup spots- 3 for Ruth, 4 for Gehrig- and the pitchers had double-digit numbers.
   18. JAHV Posted: August 23, 2019 at 07:47 PM (#5873922)
Didn’t the earliest uniform numbers correspond to the player’s position in the batting order? Maybe that’s how it got started.


That I knew (Babe Ruth 3, Lou Gehrig 4, etc.). That would mean the pitcher would wear 9, right? Even setting that aside, once the uniform number thing evolved past those days, why was it a big deal for pitchers to wear single digits? I can't imagine seeing it and thinking it looks wrong. And I am one who usually knows every player's number on my favorite team.

I was about to list a pitcher on the Angels that everyone would be familiar with and then realized they don't have one. They barely have one that I'm familiar with. Okay, let's say Andrew Heaney wore number 2. I don't think I'd have a second thought about it.
   19. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: August 23, 2019 at 07:51 PM (#5873924)
I can't imagine seeing it and thinking it looks wrong. And I am one who usually knows every player's number on my favorite team.


I’m not particularly serious with my comment above. I dont’ like pitchers in single digit numbers but it’s not an abomination or anything.

However, to your point you say you know every player’s number...think about it, then think about all the pitchers you’ve known who didn’t have a double digit number. It’s just highly unusual.
   20. Laser Man Posted: August 23, 2019 at 08:00 PM (#5873926)
That I knew (Babe Ruth 3, Lou Gehrig 4, etc.). That would mean the pitcher would wear 9, right?
But it would be a different pitcher each day, so instead, all of the pitchers would wear a double-digit number.
   21. pikepredator Posted: August 23, 2019 at 08:01 PM (#5873928)
That would mean the pitcher would wear 9, right?


they would, except teams have more than one pitcher. The back-up first baseman likely didn't have a 3 on his jersey, either.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: August 23, 2019 at 08:31 PM (#5873935)
I can't imagine seeing it and thinking it looks wrong.


You can't imagine it now, because you never realized it until today. But now that you do know, and you start to notice that virtually every pitcher wears a double-digit number, you'll probably grow accustomed to it like Jose and I have.

Unlike you, I'm not a guy who knows what numbers players wear. But if I was watching a game and the centerfield camera showed a single-digit pitcher on the hill, I would notice that. It looks unnatural to me, because it legitimately is.

   23. bobm Posted: August 23, 2019 at 08:41 PM (#5873937)
From A Game of Inches by Peter Morris:

Researcher Tom Shieber [...] reports that the Cuban Stars, one of the greatest African-American clubs of the era, wore numbers on their sleeves in 1909. [...]

The Cleveland Indians wore numbers on their sleeves in a game on June 26, 1916, but the numbers proved too small to read.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced before the 1923 season that their players would wear six-inch high numbers on both sleeves that corresponded to their place in the batting order. Manager Branch Rickey explained, "I think we owe it to the patrons. . . . The fans do not know all the players. Even I, a manager in the same league, when away from home, must often call an usher aside and ask him who this or that player is. And, if I do not know the players, how is any ordinary person to figure it out" [...] The plans were delayed, but the Cardinals wore small numbers on their sleeves on April 15, 1924. The experiment ended after the 1925 season.

The two St. Louis teams then found a surprising alternative to numbers on uniforms. As Gene Karst explained, each player was assigned a "scoreboard number" that "appeared on the hand-operated scoreboard as the player took his turn at bat. Only then, if you didn't already know him by his appearance . . . could you be sure of who the batter was." While this system was not ideal for fans, it had a major benefit to the Cardinals and Browns. Karst noted that sales of the official scorecards were often damaged by competition from unauthorized rivals. In response, the two teams would periodically foil the independent vendors by changing all of the players' numbers. These switcheroos also crossed up fans who brought scorecards from previous games to the ballpark [...] So it is easy to see why teams were in no hurry to put permanent numbers on uniforms.

On January 22, 1929, the Yankees announced that their players would wear numbers on the backs of both their home and road uniforms. The numbers corresponded to their spot in the batting order, which is why Babe Ruth wore number 3 and Lou Gehrig number 4. The Cleveland Indians joined them in part by adding numbers to their home uniforms.

The Yankees' opening day game was rained out, giving the Indians' players the distinction of being the first major leaguers to play a regular season game with numbers on their backs. The Indians won the historic April 6 game in eleven innings over the visiting Tigers.

This time the innovation finally caught on in the American League. The National League actually banned uniform numbers for several years afterward, but by 1933 all teams in the major leagues were wearing numbers.

Even after numbers became part of the uniforms, the St. Louis teams continued their efforts to prevent the sale of unauthorized scorecards. Karst explained, "For a time, the Cardinals and Browns used two sets of numbers for their players. One was the new uniform number. The other was the old scorecard number--a different number entirely--that popped up on the scoreboard when the player took his turn at bat. Confusing . . . but anything to sell more scorecards!"
   24. Omineca Greg Posted: August 23, 2019 at 09:01 PM (#5873946)
These guys think their numbers are bad ass?

Until you pull the trigger and go irrational, you're just a poser.
   25. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: August 23, 2019 at 09:07 PM (#5873952)
When I was a kid I pretty much knew the number of every pitcher around the league. At Fenway the out of town scoreboard always had the number of the pitcher by each team and I always enjoyed looking in my scorebook to see who was pitching.
   26. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2019 at 09:10 PM (#5873955)
It's not a number, but Ozzie Albies wears the nickname on the back his Player's Weekend jersey as "BOLLY" with the prayer hands emoji as the final character. It's not even a number nor a letter, so that tops everything in my book.
   27. Hank Gillette Posted: August 24, 2019 at 03:24 AM (#5874030)
However, if players started wearing non-whole numbers, my guess is that the commissioner's office would make a rule.


The only player to ever wear a non-whole number was permanently banned.
   28. Hank Gillette Posted: August 24, 2019 at 03:26 AM (#5874031)
I am profoundly unaware of uniform numbers. I don't know the uniform numbers of the best players on my favorite team.


All I know is that I root against teams where the players wear only numbers, without their names on the jersey as well.
   29. Sunday silence Posted: August 24, 2019 at 07:06 AM (#5874034)
I dont understand the whole "scoreboard number" thing? So you dont know who that guy is standing in the OF but you have to wait until he comes to the plate and then the scoreboard gives you a number and you have to look that number up in the score book?

I guess that's how it works, but wouldnt it be easier to put the guys name up on the scoreboard? or they could do letters on the scoreboard back in the day. Seems weird.
   30. villageidiom Posted: August 24, 2019 at 08:25 AM (#5874037)
Pitchers who wear single digit uniform numbers are terrible people and should be imprisoned at least a billion years.
You're just saying this because you still have nightmares about David Wells in a huge Red Sox uniform, wearing a small # 3.
   31. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 24, 2019 at 08:29 AM (#5874038)
   32. bobm Posted: August 24, 2019 at 08:43 AM (#5874039)
[29] See scorecard pictured on the bottom of page 9 of this PDF

In the early 1920s, when uniform numbers were in experimental use, players also were assigned a “board number” (below), which was used to display lineup information on the hand-operated scoreboard at Sportsman’s Park.
   33. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 24, 2019 at 11:07 AM (#5874064)
Glad John Rocker isn't around to sport #88.
   34. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 24, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5874066)
The only player to ever wear a non-whole number was permanently banned.


Was this one of the White Sox who threw the World Series? I'd never heard of this.
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: August 24, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5874067)
Was this one of the White Sox who threw the World Series? I'd never heard of this.


Eddie Gaedel. He wore 1/8.

   36. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 24, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5874068)
Oh right, I remember that now. And I remember that "stunt players" got banned after that.
   37. Howie Menckel Posted: August 24, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5874074)
I am profoundly unaware of uniform numbers. I don't know the uniform numbers of the best players on my favorite team.

we should form a support group.
   38. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 24, 2019 at 12:44 PM (#5874081)
But it would be a different pitcher each day, so instead, all of the pitchers would wear a double-digit number.


The pitchers on those 1929 Yankees included Herb Pennock (No. 11), Waite Hoyt (12), George Pipgras (14), Hank Johnson (15), Tom Zachary (16), Wilcy Moore (18), and Ed Wells (19). Backup catcher Benny Bengough wore No. 9, and Bill Dickey (who was a rookie and presumably expected to be another backup catcher) wore No. 10.
   39. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 24, 2019 at 12:44 PM (#5874083)
Didn’t the earliest uniform numbers correspond to the player’s position in the batting order? Maybe that’s how it got started.

That I knew (Babe Ruth 3, Lou Gehrig 4, etc.). That would mean the pitcher would wear 9, right?

In 1929, the Yankees' #9 was the backup catcher Benny Bengough. Bill Dickey, who was then a rookie, got #10.

And Dickey was also the first Yankees manager to have a uniform number, which wasn't until he replaced the numberless Joe McCarthy in 1946. By then he'd graduated to #8.
   40. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: August 24, 2019 at 07:27 PM (#5874163)
I dont understand the whole "scoreboard number" thing? So you dont know who that guy is standing in the OF but you have to wait until he comes to the plate and then the scoreboard gives you a number and you have to look that number up in the score book?

I guess that's how it works, but wouldnt it be easier to put the guys name up on the scoreboard? or they could do letters on the scoreboard back in the day. Seems weird.


If this is a reference to my post it was the out of town scores that the numbers were interesting because that is how you could figure out who the pitchers were in other games.

I recall Yankee Stadium used to have a small scoreboard where they would show the lineup for that day’s game with position and number. So if they were playing the Red Sox the visiting lineup might show something like “2B - 2, SS - 7, LF - 14, DH - 8, C - 27, RF -24, CF - 19, 1B - 5, 3B - 4” which I always enjoyed.

Unrelated I think Hunter Pence is using the shrug emoji as his nickname this weekend.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: August 24, 2019 at 10:37 PM (#5874222)
there's also a video clip of Pence - in his all-white uni and white gloves - channeling his inner Marcel Marceau mime act (well, the meme of him, anyway).

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