Fascinating bit of info came up on the SABR listserv yesterday. Baseball Hall of Fame curator and Uni Watch pal Tom Shieber had asked a question about the exact dates when certain numbers had been retired, including the Pirates’ retirement of No. 1 for former manager Billy Meyer (who, as you can see, is listed here). That led to the following response from one of the list’s powerhouse researchers, Fr. John Hissrich:
I [too] have tried to track down information on Billy Meyer’s #1 with Pittsburgh — not only when it was retired, but WHY? Meyer had a just a few years as the Pirates manager and had a losing record, meaning that every Pirates manager for the last fifteen years is up for that honor [of number retirement].
In speaking with a woman who used to work for the Pirates, I was told that Meyer was widely remembered as “a nice guy,” but that hardly [merits] such a distinction. The best anyone has been able to suggest to me is that when the Pirates were first compiling a list of retired numbers, someone noticed that nobody had worn the number 1 since Meyer left. That probably had more to do with his successor, Fred Haney, simply taking a different number. In any event, Meyer’s name got on the list, and nobody has really seen any reason to try taking it off.
I don’t mean to pick on Pirates fans, who’ve endured a near-endless stream of indignities in recent years. But if Hissrich’s account is accurate, it means the Buccos have essentially retired a number due to a clerical error. That’s got to be a first.
And Hissrich was actually being kind when he said Meyer “had a losing record.” Meyer’s managerial record was 317-452, for a .412 winning percentage. That’s like going 67-95 over a 162-game season — and doing it over and over and over again. Not only that, but Meyer presided over one of the worst seasons in MLB history: the Pirates’ 1952 campaign, when the team went 42-112.
This raises the question of whether Meyer might be history’s least deserving number retiree (not counting owners and other dubious non-number-wearing sorts). It also makes you wonder why nobody else has questioned his retiree status until now.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The FedEx guy showed up at Uni Watch HQ yesterday afternoon and handed me an envelope. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I looked at the return address and was surprised to see “Joe Skiba, New York Football Giants.” Inside I found this — a few pieces of confetti from the aftermath of the Giants’ post-game celebration in Arizona. Is that cool or what? I have only one other artifact that compares: When the Mets won the NLCS to advance to the World Series in 2000, a sportswriter friend pocketed this champagne cork from the floor of their clubhouse and later gave it to me. Nice. … Speaking of the Mets, this looks pretty damn good to me. The Santana press conference also provided our first photographic view of the new Shea Stadium sleeve patch, as seen here, here, here, and here. … Nike has introduced a new soccer ball for FIFA-sponsored tournaments. Details here (with thanks to Jeremy Brahm). … The Russian army (the actual military, not the Red Army hockey team) has new uniforms (courtesy of Chris Bisbee). … Curt Schilling tells an interesting story about Sean Casey’s jersey here. … Lots of women’s hoops teams will be wearing pink for a 10-day span that begins this Friday. Details here. … Speaking of women’s hoops, Richard Musterer reports that Georgia Tech will be wearing 1979 throwbacks on February 29th. They’ll be modeled on this, and let’s hope that includes the socks. … “I just rented a great movie The Kingdom and noticed Jason Bateman’s character wearing an Orioles road cap for most of his scenes,” writes Jack Krabbe. “But in one scene the film must have been flopped, because the bird was facing the wrong way.” … Brian Flynn, who was quoted in yesterday’s entry about Punt, Pass & Kick, sent along some pics of the cap and pants (complete with Pepsi ad) that he wore during one of his Giants Stadium PP&K appearances. “I couldn’t find the jersey but I remember exactly what it looks like,” he writes. “It’s a regular replica jersey like you’d buy at Modells for your team (in my case, the Jets). But instead of numbers, it has the PP&K logo screened on the front and the team’s logo screened on the back.” … Incidentally, I didn’t realize that there was a PP&K-themed Charlie Brown special that apparently aired in 1994. Details and lots of still images (with some interesting uni details) here (big thanks to Corey Buck). … Nice little video clip here that finds Predators goalies Chris Mason and Dan Ellis discussing their mask designs (as forwarded by Wade D. Harder). … My former ESPN.com colleague Darren Rovell is now at CNBC, where he’s apparently getting ready to deliver a serious knob job to Phil Knight and Nike, in the form of a one-hour documentary set to air next Tuesday. A mercifully short promo clip is available here. … Jonathan Gault reports that England’s national soccer team unveiled their new away jersey in a friendly match with Switzerland on Tuesday. … Another late-’80s NFL jersey patch that I have no memory of: this one, which was worn by the Vikings in 1989. “The ’40 for 60′ line stood for ’40 men, 60 minutes,’ a saying by Joe Kapp,” explains Dan Sliwinski, who brought this one to my attention. … Scroll down to the “One Size Doesn’t Fit All” section of this page for some amusing details on how the Shaq trade created an instant headache for Phoenix’s equipment manager (with thanks to Alexander Benezra).