I’ve got a short ESPN column today — here’s the link.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick quiz: When Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired on an MLB-wide basis 10 years ago, which players were exempt because they were already wearing 42 at the time the new protocol was announced?
That question (which I’ll answer in a sec, but go ahead and see how many of the 42ers you can come with without googling) is apropos for today, because for the first time in a decade, No. 42 will once again be issued by MLB equipment managers. The commissioner’s office announced late yesterday afternoon that one player from each team will be allowed to wear the number on April 15th, the anniversary of Robinson’s 1947 debut.
The move originated with Ken Griffey, who wore 42 for one game back in his Mariners days (and who somehow managed not to pull a hamstring while calling the MLB offices to propose the idea), and was approved by Bud Selig (who’s finally put his imprimatur on something that passes the “Is it good or is it stupid?” test). Kudos to both of them. So far at least three players have said they’ll wear the number — Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron, and Barry Bonds — along with Mets skipper Willie Randolph (as noted toward the end of this page).
It seems pretty safe to assume that every team will have a designated 42er — imagine the stink if a team chose to opt out. But the Dodgers have gotten permission to go a bit further: The entire team will wear 42 (good thing they put the names back on the jerseys this year). It’s not yet clear whether the Yankees will be allowed to have an additional 42er, since Mariano Rivera already wears that number.
Rivera, of course, is the most obvious name among the grandfathered 42ers from 1997, and the only one who’s still active. The others, in roughly descending order of prominence:
• Mo Vaughn, who wore 42 specifically in honor of Robinson, was still with the Red Sox in 1997. He later took the number with him to the Angels and Mets. (He also has “42” sewn into the cuffs of his dress shirts, but I can’t find a photo that shows it.)
• Jose Lima was with the Astros in 1997. He kept wearing 42 with the Tigers but wore a succession of other numbers as he moved to the Royals, Dodgers, Royals again, and Mets. (He actually requested 42 from the Mets during spring training last year, and wore it for one day, but the MLB office put the kibosh on that, ruling that he’d given up his claim on 42 when he’d worn other numbers with the Dodgers and Royals.)
• Butch Huskey was another player who wore 42 as a conscious Robinson tribute. Along with Vaughn, he shares the record for having worn 42 for the most teams over the past decade. He was with the Mets in ’97 and continued wearing 42 with the Mariners. He then wore 44 with the Red Sox but went back to 42 upon joining the Twins (which would seem to refute the reasoning MLB used in the Lima situation). Huskey asked for 42 when he joined the Rockies but was told no, because team owner Jerry McMorris wanted to keep the number completely out of circulation. Huskey was later in spring training with the Indians, where he was assigned No. 35, although he didn’t make the club.
• Scott Karl was with the Brewers in 1997. Like Huskey, he had to give up the number when he was traded to the Rockies.
• A few 42ers you’ve probably forgotten: Tom Goodwin, Lenny Webster, Mike Jackson, Dennis Cook (sorry for the tiny photo, but that’s a shot from April 20th, 1997, five days after Robinson’s number had been retired), Jason Schmidt (odd photo cropping, I know, but you can see all the necessary elements), Buddy Groom (sorry, no photo, but he wore 42 for the A’s that year), and Kirk Rueter (no photo, Giants).
And there’s Marc Sagmoen, who according to this page was wearing forty-deuce back in 1997 (but that page is hardly authoritative, since it doesn’t list several of the other 1997 42ers). Now, Sagmoen’s entire career consisted of 45 plate appearances during that 1997 season, and the only photo I’ve been able to find (not reproducible here, alas) shows him wearing 30something. That jibes with the account given in this book, which lists him as having worn No. 37.
But over on the Chris Creamer boards, where there’s an ongoing thread regarding the one-day lifting of the 42 retirement, somone just posted this: “I remember that the last guy to wear 42 for the Rangers was a white guy who had just been called up from the minors a day or two before the number was retired. He felt he wasn’t worthy of continuing to wear the number and switched to 37 or something in that area.” That appears to be confirmed by the third question on this Q&A page. So while Sagmoen apparently wore No. 42 for a day or two prior to the number being retired, it’s not clear if he wore it, even for a day, after it was retired. Anyone know more about this?
Uni Watch News Ticker: Remember Elena Elms, who sent me those awesome stirrup-frosted cookies back around Christmastime? She whipped up some more baseball-themed baked goods for her office this week, in dual celebration of Opening Day and Easter. “This is my first year for the shortbread baseball cookies (in the cap cups), and the Marshmallow Peeps in baseball helmets,” she writes. “If you look closely, you’ll see the retro baseball print and the baseball-shaped buttons on my dress.” … Tom Konecny notes that the Bowling Green Athletics home page is currently showing a new football helmet design (here’s the old/current one), although no official announcement regarding a new design has been made. … The WNBA’s Washington Mystics unveiled their new uniforms yesterday, and Stewart Small got plenty of photos (additional views here and here). Additional info here (courtesy of Neil Shaffer). … This should be fun (with thanks to Gypone Bubeck). … “Saw a very interesting facemask while watching the Champions League match between Roma and Manchester United,” writes Daniel Herr. “It was worn by one of the Roma players, Cristian Chivu. Here’s a pic from a match against Milan, when he was wearing the same contraption. Never seen anything like it before.” … Speaking of alternate uni components upstaging the primaries, the Blue Jays have now worn their alternate caps for both of their games, while their regular cap has yet to make its season debut. … Wow (details here). … Mike Comeau reports that umpire Jim Wolf wore a knit cap last night. … Another game, another night for Shawn Green’s superscript “Y.” … Jeremy Brahm reports that Oregon State has a new identity system. Additional info and graphics are available in this superb PDF file. … Kenny Rogers, true to form, was wearing last year’s BP cap while hanging out in the dugout yesterday (good catch by Bryan Redemske, who also notes that many of the Tigers were foolishly wearing Cool Base jerseys in yesterday’s cold weather, but not Nate Robertson). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: The Lakers, who usually wear black shoes on the road, decided to wear white last night (additional views here, here, and here). … Forty-two bonus points to anyone who gets the reference in today’s headline.