The Guy Before The Guy

Yesterday at work, I was looking at a 1998 John Olerud card on the wall of my cube… What, you don’t keep cards on your cubicle wall? I’ve got 2/3rds of a 9-pocket sheet on my cube wall, and I rotate new cards in every month… but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I was absent-mindedly staring at that Olerud card which clearly shows him wearing #5 for the Mets, and I was thinking about how odd it seems now, for him to be wearing a number that has become so thoroughly associated with David Wright over the past dozen years.
2008 Topps Back To School David Wright
So that got me wondering if anyone wore #5 between Olerud and Wright, and if not, who was the last guy to wear it before David Wright likely takes it into the number’s retirement.

As it turns out, it was Japanese import Tsuyoshi Shinjo who wore it in 2003 before Wright took #5 over in 2004.
2001-donruss-rookies-tsuyoshi-shinjo

So, that in turn got me thinking that it could be fun to take a bunch of iconic numbers and try to figure out who was the last guy to wear a number before someone else made it so completely theirs.

Before I get into this any further, all of these numbers are according to the Uniform number listings on baseball-reference.com. Those listings don’t include managers and coaches, and this post had a pretty quick turnaround from concept to execution, so I tried to feature combinations where I felt pretty confident that both players appeared in enough games in consecutive seasons that there likely wasn’t a coach or manager sneaking in there briefly to take possession of the uni #.

And so…

Before Mike Schmidt wore #20…
1975 Topps Mike Schmidt

…That number belonged to outfielder Roger Freed, who wore it in 1971 and 1972.
1972-topps-roger-freed
Other notable players to have worn #20 for the Phillies include Harvey Haddix and Ruben Amaro, Sr.

One other thing I noticed… There was a utility player named Jim Hutto who played 57 games for the Phils in 1970 and wore #20. He disappeared from the Majors for a while, then got a cup of coffee in Baltimore in 1975… wearing #33, later to be made famous by Eddie Murray. Hutto played 61 games in the Majors, wore two different uniforms, and both of his uniform numbers are now retired. You can’t make this stuff up.

Before Gary Carter wore #8…
Gary Carter Tribute - Expos #1

…the number belonged to outfielder Boots Day, who played for the Expos from 1970 to 1974.
1972-topps-boots-day
Kevin Collins wore #8 in 1969, the Expos first season, so these three guys appear to make up the entirety of Expos #8 history. For the record, the Nationals don’t officially recognize Expos retired numbers as their own, so there have been several Nats to wear #8, most recently Danny Espinosa. Since the Nationals like to have everything both ways (i.e. displaying pennants won by a prior Washington team in the American League), they naturally display those retired Expos numbers which are in full use.

BAH!!!

And finally…

Before Derek Jeter wore #2…
2000 Pacific Derek Jeter Portrait

…the number belonged to Mike Gallego, who wore it from 1992 to 1994.
1993-topps-mike-gallego
The most notable #2 in Yankee history was Frank Crosetti, who wore it as a player from 1945 to 1948, and then as a coach from 1949 to 1968. Beyond Crosetti, there’s Mark Koenig (who wore it first), the intriguingly named Yats Wuestling (who wore it for part of 1930), Red Rolfe, Snuffy Stirnweiss and later Sandy Alomar, Paul Blair and Bobby Murcer in his second Yankees stint… but the number largely belonged to Cro and Jeets.

I had some other numbers in mind, but they’ll have to wait until I do the proper research and/or scan the appropriate cards.

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12 thoughts on “The Guy Before The Guy

  1. I’d been planning to do this series in the NBA since I started my blog in 2014, but I didn’t have enough of the 1970s cards scanned. Cool to see it in baseball, which I don’t know enough about to even attempt to write.

  2. I’m fascinated by this kind of research. One story that’s always struck is that out Paul Schramka, the last Cub to wear #14 before Ernie Banks. Paul sent a telegraph to Ernie shortly after the latter was first called up that read, “I left all the base hits in the jersey for you.” I guess he wasn’t kidding!

  3. I’m fascinated by this kind of research. One story that’s always struck me is that of Paul Schramka, the last Cub to wear #14 before Ernie Banks. Paul sent a telegraph to Ernie shortly after the latter was first called up that read, “I left all the base hits in the jersey for you.” I guess he wasn’t kidding!

  4. Awesome post! It made me head over to Baseball Reference and find out who wore #19 on the Padres before my favorite player did. I discovered that only one other guy wore that number in franchise history. But I won’t spoil anything for you… just in case that was one of the players you wanted to research.

  5. It’s funny you bring up Olerud.. There have been times where I look up guys who wore certain numbers on the Jays before the person I know it for.

    As for the Nationals… Don’t get me started.. lol They’re trying to mix in histories from three franchises while not really honouring any of them instead of just being their own..

    I got very tired of listening to announcers saying they hadn’t gotten to a certain point since 1981.. No.. The EXPOS got to the playoffs in 1981.. The NATIONALS didn’t exist…

  6. It would also be interesting to see who wore the the number after an iconic player. My favorite player was Hall of Famer Ron Santo. After the Cubs unceremoniously traded Ron to the White Sox they gave his number to Billy Grabarkewitz. And the last to wear #10 before they retired it was (never heard of him) Terrell Lowery. I need to memorize some this. It’s great stuff to tell my wife when she can’t sleep. Works better than Sominex. ;)

  7. My favorite story along these lines is from Japan of course. The Yomiuri Giants retired #3 in honor of Hall Of Famer Shigeo Nagashima in 1974. The first player to ever wear #3 for the Giants was Hall Of Famer Haruyasu Nakajima, who wore it in the late 30’s/early 40’s. Hall Of Famer Shigeru Chiba wore it from 1946 to 1957 and Nagashima started wearing it as a rookie in 1958. So that’s three Hall Of Famers to wear the number “3” for the Giants.

    It would be a perfect story if those three guys were the only three to ever wear the number for the Giants but Mikio Tamura wore it for the 1944 season.

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