Phillies get all caught up in numbers game

Phillies get all caught up in numbers game

Phillies get all caught up in numbers game
Players are often remembered by the uniform number they wore on the back of their jerseys during their playing careers.

It wasn't always that way.

"Now Batting, Number ..." is a book published in 2006. Jack Looney is the author. It provides a history of uniform numbers and team by team rundowns.

According to Looney's research, there were reports that the Cincinnati Red Stockings wore numbers on their sleeves as long ago as 1883. Other reports had numbers appearing at other times with other teams. Verification was difficult to achieve.

It is a fact the New York Yankees were the first team to wear numbers in 1929. When they played in Cleveland on May 13, 1929, it was the first game in which both teams wore uniform numbers.

As far as the Phillies, they first wore numbers 80 years ago. No. 1 that season was outfielder Kiddo Davis. The highest number was 30, worn by pitcher Ad Liska.

Number notes
No. 99 is the highest worn by a Phillies player -- actually three. Lefty Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams (1993), reliever Turk Wendell (2001) and second baseman So Taguchi (2008) all wore No. 99.

The lowest is zero, worn by outfielder Al Oliver (1984), with 00 by right-hander Omar Olivares ('95) and right-hander Rick White (2006).

Most numbers worn? Seven, by two different players: infielder Granny Hamner (1, 2, 6, 17, 29, 33, 37) and Hall of Fame outfielder Chuck Klein (1, 3, 8, 26, 29, 32, 36).

Infielder Bobby Wine wore four different numbers in his Phillies career as a player and coach -- 1, 42, 7, 13.

Retired numbers
The Phillies have retired the following numbers: No. 36, Robin Roberts (1962); No. 1, Richie Ashburn ('79); No. 32, Steve Carlton ('89); No. 20, Mike Schmidt ('90); and No. 14, Jim Bunning (2001). All are Hall of Famers.

In 1997, Major League Baseball, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player, retired No. 42 on all teams.

Roberts was brought up to the Major Leagues in June 1948. When he arrived in the Phillies' clubhouse in Forbes Field, No. 36 was hanging in his locker. Right-hander Nick Strincevich wore that number until he was released a day before. When Robbie was sold to the Yankees in Spring Training of 1961, team owner Bob Carpenter said no one would ever wear that number again.

Ashburn wore No. 1 from 1948-59. When he left in 1960, three different players wore that number that season: infielder Alvin Dark, infielder Joe Morgan and Wine. The last player to wear it prior to the 1979 retirement was outfielder Jose Cardenal. When the Phillies retired No. 1 during Whitey's Wall of Fame induction ceremony that summer, he barked, "You mean you are giving me Jose's jersey?"

Carlton came to the Phillies in a controversial Spring Training trade for Rick Wise in 1972. Lefty had worn No. 32 in St. Louis and was given that number with the Phillies. Right-hander Darrell Brandon wore that number the previous season.

Schmidt joined the Phillies in September 1972 and wore No. 22. When Roger Freed was traded that winter, Schmidt was given his No. 20.

Others who have experienced the same as Schmidt include: Greg Luzinski (42, 1970; 19 thereafter), Jimmy Rollins (29 in 2000; 11), Pat Burrell (33 in 2000; 5), Juan Samuel (9, 1983; 8), Ryan Howard (12, 2004; 6) and Darren Daulton (29, 1983; 10).

Who decides what number a player will wear?

Generally, it is the responsibility of the equipment manager. Since he joined the Phillies in 1989, the chore rests with Frank Coppenbarger. When a veteran joins the Phillies, Coppenbarger will try to give the new player his old number. If it isn't available, Frank then provides a list of numbers from which the player can choose.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.