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.
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.
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 #.
Before Mike Schmidt wore #20…
…That number belonged to outfielder Roger Freed, who wore it in 1971 and 1972.
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…
…the number belonged to outfielder Boots Day, who played for the Expos from 1970 to 1974.
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.
Before Derek Jeter wore #2…
…the number belonged to Mike Gallego, who wore it from 1992 to 1994.
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.