Uniform facts & figures
Page 2 staff

We couldn't cram all our research into one, nifty little toy. So, here is more uniform number trivia for you to impress your buddies with:

Worst retired numbers
1. Wade Boggs, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, No. 12: Sure, he got his 3,000th hit in a Tampa uniform, but this is a joke.
2. Steve Garvey, San Diego Padres, No. 6: He only played a little over four years with the Padres, wasn't really any good with them (.275 average), when he was good it was with the rival Dodgers, and he's not a Hall of Famer anyway.
3. Larry Steele, Portland Trailblazers, No. 15. His career scoring average? 8.2 points per game.
4. Dave Twardzik, Portland Trailblazers, No. 13. OK, nice, you won a championship back in '77. Twardzik played four years with the Blazers with a career scoring average of 9.5
5. Jim Taylor, New Orleans Saints, No. 31. Sure, he's in the Hall of Fame, but he played just one season with the Saints.

Page 2's Got Your Number
  • Who's the ultimate No. 32? Who's the ultimate No. 7? Page 2 has the Ultimate Scorecard, with the best at each uniform number, from 00 to 99.

  • What is the ultimate uniform number? Jim Caple argues that it's No. 24.

  • The uniform number gets retired, but Eric Neel says it means much more than a player's identity.

  • Choosing numbers: ESPN analysts reveal why they wore their numbers.
  • Trivia #1
    Name the baseball player whose number was retired while he was still active -- with another team.

    Not the way to be remembered
    For some reason, sports teams have a tendency to a retire the uniform numbers of active players who die. It's a nice gesture, but marginal players who wouldn't otherwise have warranted such permanent glory end up with a cruel twist of fate: their numbers memoralized, but for a reason nobody would want.

    Bears running back Brian Piccolo (No. 41), is the most famous of these. He was 26 when he died of cancer. His relationship with Gale Sayers was relived in two different TV movies, but he was never a star: just 927 career rushing yards in four seasons.

    Two football players -- Korey Stringer with the Vikings (No. 77) and J.V. Cain with the St. Louis (No. 88) -- died in training camp and had their numbers retired. Players who died in car crashes and had numbers retired include Jerome Brown of the Eagles, who was an All-Star, and Malik Sealy of the Timberwolves and Bobby Phills of the Hornets, who were not.

    Perhaps the most anonymous retired number among the four pro sports leagues is Jim Umbricht, No. 32 with the Astros, a reliever with the team in 1962 and '63. He died of cancer in April 1964 at age 33 and his uniform was retired the following season.

    Random cool facts
    1. Japanese baseball players avoid wearing No. 4, pronounced "shi," because it also means "death."
    2. Rick Barry wanted 24 when he played with the Rockets, but Moses Malone already had it. Barry dealt with it: he wore No. 2 at home and No. 4 on the road.
    3. Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez wore No. 50 because he was from Hawaii, the 50th state.

    Didn't play, but got a number retired anyway
    1. Gene Autry, Angels, No. 26. Team owner. Too bad he wasn't around to see the Angels finally win the Series.
    2. Seahawks fans, No. 12. Back when they had some.
    August Busch Jr., Cardinals, No. 85. Team owner. Not that any player would wear the number anyway.
    Jack Ramsay, Trailblazers, No. 77. Coach of the 1977 title team.
    Charlotte Hornets fans, No. 6: Yeah, but can someone on the New Orleans Hornets wear the number?

    Trivia #2
    Name the player who wore No. 3 (Babe Ruth) and No. 7 (Mickey Mantle) with the Yankees.

    They said it
    Bill Lee on why No. 8 was the key to Carl Yastrzemski's success: "When laid on its side the number 8 resembles the symbol for infinity. That symbol was recharging Yaz's batteries."

    Out of control
    The New York Yankees have retired 14 numbers for 15 different players (No. 8 was worn by Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), but that doesn't compare to the Boston Celtics, who barely have room left in the rafters. They have retired 20 numbers, including such luminaries as Walter Brown (owner, No. 1), Don Nelson (No. 19, single-season high of 15.4 points per game), K.C. Jones (No. 25, career scoring average: 7.4 points) and Frank Ramsey (No. 23).

    The only available numbers for the Celtics between 1 and 25 are 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 20.

    More cool facts
    1. When Olden Polynice and Benoit Benjamin were teammates with the Clippers and later the Sonics, Polynice wore 0 and Benjamin 00. Never has there been a bigger collection of zeroes.

    2. When baseball players first started wearing uniform numbers in the late '20s and early '30s, the number itself obviously wasn't a big deal. Hall of Famers Chuck Klein and Ernie Lombardi each wore 10 different numbers during their careers.

    3. The No. 44, worn by Jim Brown and Ernie Davis at Syracuse, is so revered at the school that every university phone number begins with 44.

    Trivia #3
    Which pitcher wore uniform "Channel 17" with the Braves?

    They also wore ...

  • Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 when he first joined the Yankees. After getting sent down to the minors, he wore No. 7 upon his return.

  • Joe DiMaggio wore No. 9 his rookie season and then switched to No. 5.

  • Magic Johnson wore No. 33 at Michigan State (Greg Kelser was No. 32). Magic took No. 32 with the Lakers -- some guy named Kareem already had 33.

  • Michael Jordan wore No. 12 for a Bulls-Magic game after his jersey has been stolen. He also wore No. 45 for a short time upon returning from his first retirement.

    Trivia answers
    1. Harold Baines, who had his No. 3 retired by the White Sox after he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1989. Baines played 12 more years in the big leagues -- and returned to the White Sox for two different stints.

    2. Cliff Mapes wore No. 3 before it was retired in 1948 for Ruth and No. 7 before Mantle came up in 1951.

    3. Andy Messersmith wore No. 17 with "CHANNEL" instead of his last name, for Channel 17, Ted Turner's television station. MLB quickly nixed the free advertising, however.

    Email story
    Most sent
    Print story

    espn Page 2 index