History of sorts was made in Colorado last night, as Alex White — freshly called up from the minors and installed in the starting rotation — became the first pitcher in Rockies history to wear a single-digit uni number. Well, sort of the first: The Rox have also had two single-digitized position players who’ve been forced to take the mound during extreme circumstances: Brent Mayne in 2000 and Todd Zeile in 2002 (couldn’t find a photo of his mound stint, alas). But I’d say those two get an asterisk, since Mayne and Zeile weren’t normally considered pitchers.
I’m not sure why White is wearing No. 6 this season. Last year he wore 43 for the Rockies and 32 for the Indians, but he began wearing 6 in spring training this year. Anyone know why? (This is the part where we all get to say, “Maybe it refers to his blood alcohol level.”)
White becomes the second single-digitized pitcher in the bigs this season, joining Kyle Drabek of the Blue Jays. I’d love for the Jays and Rox to play each other, so we could have an all-single-digitized pitching match-up (has that ever happened before?), but the two teams aren’t scheduled to play each other during this year’s slate of interleague games. So either Drabek or White will simply have to be traded to the opposite league. Nothing else will do.
I believe the last single-digitized pitcher before Drabek was Josh Towers. Unfortunately, his time in Toronto didn’t overlap with Drabek’s, so the Jays never managed the trick of having two single-digitized pitchers on the same roster (not sure if that’s ever happened either).
The last pitcher to wear 6 prior to White, at least that I’m aware of, was Rob Bell of the Rangers in 2001. Bell took the single numeral after being traded in mid-season. Wayne Gomes did the same thing that year, wearing No. 2 after joining the Giants in July (although I can’t find a photo of that, alas).
My favorite single-digitized pitcher is Boomer Wells, who briefly wore No. 3 in 2005 as a shout-out to the Babe. But after getting off to a rocky start, he switched to 16 about a third of the way through the season.
Another interesting case is George Brunet of the Pirates, who wore No. 4 for a couple of games late in the 1970 season before switching to 22. The odd thing is that 4 was Ralph Kiner’s number, and the Pirates eventually retired it in 1987. You have to wonder what took them so long (Kiner retired in ’55 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in ’75). If they had taken his number out of circulation sooner, it wouldn’t have been available for Brunet to wear.
The most popular single-digit numbers for pitchers over the years have been 8 (worn by Bob Priddy of the Pirates, Bob Baird of the Sens, and Bill Monbouquette of the Giants in the 1960s) and 7 (Atlee Hammaker of the Giants in ’85, Jeff Juden of the Indians in ’97, and Towers from 2003-07, which is by far the longest run for a single-digit number on a pitcher’s back). At the other end of the spectrum, I believe no pitcher has ever worn 5 or 9. Or, for that matter, 0.
Although it’s a bit strange to see a single-digitized pitcher on the mound, there’s something to be said for a pitcher wearing No. 1, since that’s also his position number. To my knowledge, only two pitchers have worn 1: Jack Jenkins of the Senators in 1962 and Matt Young of the Mariners in 1990.
I used phrases like “to my knowledge” and “I believe” a lot in this piece, because (a) I’m mostly working from memory here and (b) although there are some lists of single-digitized pitchers floating around the web, I don’t trust them. George Brunet, for example, wasn’t on any of those lists until Keith Olbermann was watching some old footage a few years ago and spotted him wearing No. 4. And Jack Looney of SABR once gave me a list that included Mark Small of the Expos wearing No. 0 in 2000, which is wrong on multiple counts (Small’s entire career consisted of 16 games for the Astros in 1996, when he wore No. 36; meanwhile, the Expos didn’t have a No. 0 in 2000). So if anyone can refute or amend anything I’ve presented here, please feel free to do so.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, here are the results of my “Redesign the Hornets” contest.
In addition, if you read that column prior to 2pm yesterday, you may have missed Leo Strawn Jr.’s really fun New Orleans Rhythm design. He submitted it in time for the contest, but for some reason it never showed up in my in-box. Then he sent me a follow-up note yesterday afternoon, which I did receive. I like his design, so I added it to the “Honorable Mention” section. Frankly, if I had received it the first time around, I probably would have included it among the top five picks. Sorry for the snafu, Leo.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Really fun article about the new dress code in chess (from Joe Makowiec). … I’m very pleased that my city is about to start a bike-sharing program. I’m not so pleased to learn that the bikes will be instruments of corporate douchebaggery. … Look at this early version of the Swinging Friar. Brady Phelps spotted that in a display case at Petco Park. … Leandro Rosas, Jr. bought himself this swell 49ers helmet chair a few days ago. Better put another lock on the door, Leandro, or else Brinke will be coming to heist it from you! … Interesting move by Cowboys draftee Tyrone Crawford, whose Twitter page shows a Cowboys helmet without the star logo, because he still has to earn his star (from Steve King). … “What is this Washington State logo that Howard Stern is wearing?” asks Rick Rutherford. “I have lived in Washington my entire life and I have never seen it before.” … “I attend Purdue University, and one of my fraternity brothers has recently been awarded the position as a Purdue Pete, our school’s mascot,” writes Kyle Bayram. “He let it slip to me the other day that Nike and Purdue had requested that all of the football uniforms worn by the players — and by Purdue Pete — be returned because they are changing the designs and possibly adding an alternate uniform. Sure enough, I asked a local Purdue athletics store about this and they said they had to give all of their replica football uniforms in stock back to Nike for changes.” … Not sure I’ve eve seen this before: full armpit exposure on a high school softball uniform. That’s Waco Reicher Catholic High School pitcher Beth Tobin (from Matthiew Mitchell). … No photos, but Southern Miss football will be wearing 1970 throwbacks for at least one game this season (from Landon Howell). … Good video showing what the 76ers’ equipment manager did during the first round of the playoffs (from Erik Autenrieth). … New kits for Stoke City and Newcastle United (from Jon Forbes). … Interesting story behind the uni number choice for one of the Eagles’ new draftees (from Brice Wallace). … I think we may have seen this helmet cart photo before, but once more definitely can’t hurt (from Garrett Schabb). … “Some bizarre news from Cardiff City, where the new Malaysian owners want to switch the club’s colors from blue to red because ‘red is seen as a more dynamic colour in Asia when it comes to marketing merchandise,’” says Nick, who asked that his surname not be used. “Cardiff has been wearing their blue and white jerseys since the days when the Chicago Cubs were winning championships and the Qing Dynasty ruled China. Crazy.” … Brandon League looks like he’s wearing a long-sleeved undershirt, but he’s actually wearing compression sleeves (screen shot by Rick Rutherford). … Here’s a review of the Mumbai Indians’ cricket uniforms (from Harsh Kalan). … Cuban volleyballer Fernando Hernandez has the Cuban flag design shaved into his head (from Jeremy Brahm). … RIP, Maurice. It’s been one helluva wild rumpus.