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Cure for baseball fever is potion No. 9

Cure for baseball fever is potion No. 9

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Nine has at least as much significance in baseball as any of its countless cousins -- and more than most. Nine men on a side, if only in the National League. The game with no clock has innings as its unit of time, and there are nine of them in most games. And the "bottom of the ninth" is the sport's most prominent half-inning, even though it's not always contested.

Ted Williams wore No. 9 splendidly. And the No. 9 position, right field, has a remarkable history in New York -- from Ruth to Roger to Reggie. From Winfield to Strawberry to Paul O'Neill.

But nine isn't readily associated with a high-profile record. The most runs scored by one player in a game is six. Nolan Ryan pitched seven no-hitters, and Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey hit home runs in eight straight games. And nine is ... well. What is it?

Admirers of Johnny Burnett know. The late Indians shortstop had nine hits in one game, the most ever. Mr. Burnett established his record against Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's in an 18-inning game, played July 10, 1932, in League Park in Cleveland. The Indians won, 18-17.

On this date, the first 9-9-09 in 100 years, a day when the remastered Beatles CDs are to be released ("Number 9, number 9, number 9"), MLB.com salutes Burnett, his record, Williams, Maris, Reggie and a host of nines, not the least of which is this year.

Mothballs

Six clubs have retired uniform No. 9: Red Sox for Williams, Cardinals for Enos Slaughter, Pirates for Bill Mazeroski, Athletics for Reggie Jackson, White Sox for Minnie Minoso and Yankees for Roger Maris.

9 X 9

• Luis Aparicio led the American League in stolen bases nine consecutive seasons (1956-1964), the most ever.

• Babe Ruth produced a slugging percentage of at least .700 nine times, the most ever.

• The '69 Mets won nine games by the score 1-0.

• Mike Schmidt (1976-84) and Ryne Sandberg (1983-1991) won Gold Gloves in nine successive seasons.

• Mike Greenwell had nine RBIs in the Red Sox's 9-8, 10-inning victory against the Mariners at the Kingdome on Sept. 2, 1996, the most RBIs by a player driving in all his team's runs in one game.

• Joe Adcock and Willie Mays hit nine home runs each at Ebbets Field in 1954 and 1955, respectively, the most home runs ever hit in a single season in one park by visiting players.

• Minoso led the big leagues in being hit by a pitch nine times, the most ever.

• Mazeroski led National League second basemen in assists in nine seasons, the most ever.

• Lefty Grove led the American League in ERA nine times, the most ever.

9 + 9 + 9 = 3 in Hall of Fame

Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, more readily recognized respectively as Nos. 5 and 19 with the Yankees and Indians, wore uniform No. 9 as rookies in 1936. Bobby Doerr, No. 1 through most of his career with the Red Sox, wore No. 9 as a rookie in 1937, two years before Ted Williams took over the number.

No. 9, No. 9, No. 9

The No. 9 card among active members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America belongs to Mike Waldner of the South Bay Daily Breeze in the Los Angeles-Anaheim chapter of the BBWAA.

The value of 9?

Casey Candaele, the Expos' second-year second baseman, graciously offered his uniform number, No. 9, to Graig Nettles after the former Yankees third baseman joined the Expos in Spring Training 1988, and Nettles accepted. He had worn No. 9 for three seasons with the Indians, 11 seasons with the Yankees and three with the Padres before wearing No. 19 with the Braves in 1987.

Ozzie Virgil Jr. wore No. 9 with the Braves that year.

"That was a nice gesture. Casey didn't have to do it," Nettles said at the time. "I might have asked him about it after I got to know him. But he just offered it.

"Ozzie offered last year, too. ... He offered to sell it."

Three "other" 9's

Since Williams first wore the Sox's No. 9 in 1939, three others have worn it. Lou Finney, Johnny Peacock and Hal Wagner took turns in 1944 while Williams was in the service.

The one and only

Rich Rollins wore No. 9 for the Seattle Pilots in their only season.

DOB 9-9

Todd Zeile, one of nine players in big league history whose surnames begins with Ze, was born on Sept. 9, 1965.

Gone

The great Catfish Hunter died on 9-9-99 at age 53.

9-9-99

Brady Anderson, Jeromy Burnitz, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Erubiel Durazo, Steve Finley, Brad Fullmer, Karim Garcia, Wiki Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Vladimir Guerrero, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Piazza, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Greg Vaughn and Daryle Ward hit home runs on Sept. 9, 1999. The home runs were the ninth for Caminiti, Durazo and Fullmer.

Dressed to the 9's

We present our No. 9 All-Star team. All selections wore No. 9 at some point in their careers. In two cases, we had to bend the rules a bit.

• Warren Spahn, whom we recall as No. 21, was selected because he led the league or tied for the league leadership in complete games nine times.

• No closer wearing No. 9 could be found. So we assigned the No. 9 inning to Mariano Rivera.

The All-9 lineup:

Arky Vaughn SS
Vince DiMaggio CF
Ted Williams DH
Joe Adcock 1B
Reggie Jackson RF
Enos Slaughter LF
Graig Nettles 3B
Tim McCarver C
Bill Mazeroski 2B

Manager: Joe Torre

Pitchers:

Warren Spahn LHP
Bob Feller RHP
Mariano Rivera RP

Bench:

Minnie Minoso OF
Roger Maris OF
Hank Bauer OF
Gregg Jefferies DH
Todd Hundley C
Todd Zeile 3B, 1B, C

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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