Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Now Batting, Number ...; The Mystique, Superstition, and Lore of Baseball Uniform Numbers by Jack Looney

As we get deeply into the major league baseball season and our favorite teams sink in the standings, it is a good time to turn our attention away from the daily games and toward some baseball books. New at my library is Now Batting, Number... by Jack Looney, a big book about uniform numbers.

Now Batting, Number ... may be intended as a reference book, but I recommend circulating it to readers, for they will need more time to look at it than they will be willing to spend in the library. The main section of the book is "Team Rosters," a team-by-team, year-by-year list showing every player that wore a uniform number, 1916-2005. Other reference sections of the book are "Retired Numbers," which lists for every team the uniform numbers that have been removed from use to honor great players, and "Players by the Numbers," which lists every player and his numbers. The book also includes some sections that are intended for reading, including "Early Innings: A Brief History of Uniform Numbers" and "The Caretakers: Equipment Managers."

Browsing the book, I realize that not many players ever get through their careers with only one uniform number. The great players who stick to one team, such as Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski, and the "one cup of coffee" players get only one. Some players who move to a second team late in their career, such as Robin Yount and Eddie Murray, have the clout to demand their favorite numbers, but most have to take new numbers with new teams. Some greats, such as Cal Ripken and George Brett, only got their good low numbers after a couple of seasons wearing high numbers.

Larry Yount (Robin's brother), who only went to the pitching mound once, where he injured himself throwing warm up pitches, who never actually played in a game, wore two numbers in his short season with the Houston Astros.

Don Zimmer has worn fourteen uniform numbers as a player, coach, and manager.

If you you want to continue with the subject of baseball uniform numbers, seek out Baseball's Retired Numbers by Thomas W. Brucato, which includes data about about players in both the major and minor leagues. If you want to see how the uniforms have changed through time, check out Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century by Marc Okkonen, which shows the designs for all the major league teams.

Looney, Jack. Now Batting, Number ...; The Mystique, Superstition, and Lore of baseball's Uniform Numbers. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2006. ISBN 1579125751

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