Every number tells a story!

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
12:22
PM ET
Back in 1916, the Cleveland Indians became the first team to experiment with wearing numbers on its uniforms, specifically on the left sleeve. The experiment quickly died. The St. Louis Cardinals tried the same thing in 1923, again with limited success. It wasn’t until 1929, when the Indians and New York Yankees wore numbers on the backs of their uniforms that the modification took hold. By the mid-1930s, all teams wore numbered unis.

Using Baseball Reference as my source, I created a database of uniform numbers, noting the year, player and team for each and every number ever worn. Dicing and slicing through that database, I discovered some interesting “records.”

INDIVIDUAL PLAYER RECORDS:

Most different numbers worn, one season, playing for more than one team: Six, by four players: Chuck Hartenstein in 1970 (Nos. 20, 22, 23, 26, 42, 50) split across the Red Sox, Pirates and Cardinals. Gerry Staley in 1961 (Nos. 20, 21, 24, 38, 44, 66) split across the Athletics, White Sox and Tigers. Jack Lamabe in 1967 (Nos. 23, 28, 34, 36, 45, 47) split across the White Sox, Cardinals and Mets. Juan Pizarro in 1969 (Nos. 11, 24, 26, 42, 43, 49) split across the Red Sox, Indians and Athletics.

Most different numbers worn, one season, playing for one team: Four, by many players. Most recently: Chris Britton in 2008 (Nos. 38, 39, 47, 63) for the Yankees and Jesse Carlson in 2008 (Nos. 39, 43, 48, 59) for the Blue Jays.

Most different numbers worn, career: 15, George Brunet 1956-7, 1959-1971 (Nos. 4, 9, 22, 23, 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 53, 57) for nine different teams.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Hough
Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesCharlie Hough wore good ol' No. 49 for … well, it seemed like forever.
Most years wearing one specific number (wearing at least one other number during career): 25, Charlie Hough (No. 49).

Most years wearing only one number, playing for more than one team, career: 24, Pete Rose (No. 14).

Most years wearing only one number, playing for one team, career: 23, Carl Yastrzemski (No. 8).

Most different teams, wearing same number, career: 10, Terry Mulholland (No. 45). Livan Hernandez (No. 61) wore the same number for 10 different teams, but only nine franchises (Montreal/Washington).

TEAM RECORDS:

Most different numbers worn, team history: 80, Boston Red Sox.

Most different numbers worn, season: 53, Cincinnati (2003).

Fewest different numbers worn, team history: 55, Tampa Bay Rays.

Fewest different numbers worn, season: 29, by five teams. Most recently: Cincinnati (1975). Montreal had 28 different numbers in 1972, when they played 156 games in a strike-shortened season. Similarly, Cincinnati had 29 different numbers that same year, when they played 154 games.

Most different players wearing same number, team history: 67, New York Yankees (No. 26).

Most different players wearing same number, season: Seven, New York Yankees (No. 28) in 1989 (worn by Al Leiter, Dale Mohorcic, Dave Eiland, Hal Morris, Hensley Meulens, Jesse Barfield, Marcus Lawton). Note: Excludes the 197 players leaguewide (who joined Mariano Rivera) wearing No. 42 on April 15, 2007, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut.

LEAGUE RECORDS:

Most instances of same number being worn in season: 35, 2000 (No. 23, worn by 34 players, with Matt Mieske wearing it for two different teams). Note: This, too, excludes the 197 players leaguewide (who joined Mariano Rivera) wearing No. 42 on April 15, 2007.

Most different players wearing same number in season: 34, 2000 (No. 23), 2007 (No. 28). Note: And again, excluding Jackie Robinson Day.

Most different numbers worn by players, season: 83, 2013.

UNIFORM NUMBER MINUTIA:

Numbers never worn: 80, 86, 89, 90, 92.

Numbers worn by only one player in history: 82 (Johnny Lazor, 1943 Red Sox), 84 (J.T. Snow, 2006 Red Sox), 87 (Dan Otero, 2012 Giants), 95 (Takahito Nomura, 2002 Brewers), 98 (Onelki Garcia, 2013 Dodgers).

Three most popular uniform numbers, by number of different players to wear them: No. 22 (846), No. 27 (812), No. 26 (806).

“Roulette Wheel” player (wore both “0” and “00” in his career): Kerry Robinson (wore No. 00 for Reds in 1999, and No. 0 for Cardinals in 2002-03).

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