By Bryan Redemske
In 1997, marking the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut — and therefore the breaking of the color barrier — teams wore sleeve patches to mark the occasion. President Clinton participated in a nice ceremony honoring Robinson’s legacy, and all was well.
Since then, things have progressively gotten bigger and bigger, making me wonder how much longer it will be before every team requires its players wear only Robinson’s No. 42 on April 15, and whether the numbers 4 and 2 will also be the only ones allowed in that day’s boxscores. True, Robinson’s debut had a large impact both historically for baseball and socially for the nation. But couldn’t one say the same thing about, say, Babe Ruth’s legacy? Would there have been a stage for Robinson to grace if not for Ruth? And why did it take 50 years to honor Robinson across the game if April 15 was so important?
There’s a far-reaching — and likely heated — discussion that could be set off at this point, but let’s steer clear of that for now. It’s time to count the 42s. Be prepared — there were lots of them. According to this story (which also includes the full list of players on each team), nine teams had a full compliment of 42s — the Angels, Athletics, Rangers, Rays, Mets, Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates and Dodgers. All of the others had at least one representative, and all 42s were NNOB.
Some 42s of note:
• Ken Griffey Jr., who started the wearing of the 42 a year ago, obviously followed it up. Dusty Baker also wore it, but understandably didn’t venture out of the Wrigley Field visitors dugout too much.
• New York Governor David Paterson, who’s legally blind, threw out the first pitch at Shea Stadium. Insert your own inappropriate joke here. Oh, and he’s wearing a Cool Base jersey, too.
• Several teams — Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Brewers, Orioles, and Giants — only had one representative.
• The Mariners have only four players listed, but had more than that in uniform.
• Other than the number itself, Derrek Lee doesn’t look too strange. The Cubs were NNOB in 2005 and 2006.
• Jimmy Rollins was the only Phillie with a 42, but got the double-number treatment.
• David Ortiz had a successful night on two fronts: No. 42, and he got a hit! But like most of the 42ers, his helmet number didn’t match his jersey number. Note also, the Indians wore their blue alts at home. They started doing that again last season. And check out Garko’s nameplate. Who set up that radial arch, David Paterson?
• The Blue Jays’ jerseys actually look good without a name on the back. OK, not really good, but substantially better. They chose a busy font and color scheme, and losing a good portion of it cleans things up. Nice(ish). Also in Baltimore, the Orioles’ Adam Jones had his very own T-shirt giveaway night. The problem? He was wearing No. 42, not his usual No. 10. Thanks to Dan Sliwinski for the tip.
• While the Dodgers obviously all wore No. 42, Chaka Khan, sadly, did not. Plenty of good seats still available, by the way, if you’re out driving around and thinking about a ballgame. Interesting note: The Dodgers played the Pirates in one of three games that featured two full teams of 42s. The others were Angels/Rangers and Mets/Nationals.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Paul here. First and foremost, major thanks to Bryan for handling today’s main entry (a task he assumed on just a few hours’ notice), which allowed me to take care of some other urgent business last night. Much obliged, Bry. … Now then: As we’ve discussed a few times, Michigan will become an Adidas school this fall but is still technically a Nike school for now. But Seth Gladstein notes that several of the players in Saturday’s spring football scrimmage wore Adidas cleats with Nike socks. … A few days ago I mentioned the Expos’ retired numbers banner, which currently hangs in the Bell Centre. Here’s a really good photo of it (along with Andre Dawson and Gary Carter in Habs jerseys), courtesy of Costa Galanis. … The question of wearing a jacket while running the bases is addressed, somewhat inconclusively, in the last entry on this Q&A page (with thanks to Don Montgomery). … Mark Fightmaster reports that the Cincy Bearcats are wearing some awesome striped stirrups. … Obama of Dreams lives! That’s Ben Kozyak, posing with singer John Legend on Monday. … Here’s a Philly incident I hadn’t been aware of: Mike Schmidt once referred to the locals as “beyond help” and Veterans Stadium as a “mob scene, uncontrollable.” In his next game after those comments were published, Schmidt came out wearing a “disguise,” consisting of a wig and shades, which reportedly prompted a standing O from the boo-birds (nice find by Andrew Hoenig). … John Wright sent me this photo of Dave Brown. Is that a uni number below his left hand? If so, it clearly isn’t No. 22. I’ve never seen numbers on the Seahawks’ pants before. Can anyone shed any light on this? … Sigh. … At first glance, this story isn’t uni-related — until you get to the sixth graf. … Looks like we’ve got our first case of Cool Base-induced mismatched grays (great spot by Bryan). … Check this out: Dan Marino had a numbered towel and a hand-warmer pouch during his days at Pitt (with thanks to Doug Keklak). … Also from Doug: John Russell (current Pirates manager, former MLB catcher) had a “Jo. Russell” NOB back in his Texas Rangers days. … Awesome old sneaker ad here (with thanks to Matt Mitchell). … Attention NYC-area readers: Big literary event tomorrow evening, as Mets by the Numbers author/webmaster Jon Springer will be reading at Word Books, and he’ll be joined by Spike Vrusho, author of the newly published Benchclearing: Baseball’s Greatest Fights and Riots. Most of you know Springer by now (if not, get acquainted with his web site here and his book here); as for Vrusho, he’s the former editor of the brilliant 1990s baseball-centric zine Murtaugh, which featured, among other things, Tony Millionaire’s “Batty” comic (including the fondly remembered do-it-yourself installment) and such masterpieces of poetic verse as “Ode to Marge Schott” and “Dallas Green Is a Douche.” In other words, we’re talking two serious heavyweights of baseball literature here. First pitch is at 7:30pm.