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60 years ago on April 11
2007-04-12 22:30
by Bob Timmermann

I would have run this earlier in the day, but:

1. I was busy.

2. I didn't even know the story existed.

3. It may not even be important or interesting to anyone but me. But has that ever stopped me before?

Toward the end of the New York Times story about an exhibition game between the Yankees and Dodgers at Ebbets Field on April 11, 1947 which was Jackie Robinson's first appearance in a major league uniform was this note:

Robinson wore No. 42 on the back of his Dodgers uniform.

Amazing that how a uniform number which seems to have so much written and talked about it now was just an afterthought when it happened. I don't know for sure, but I think Robinson got number 42 because that uniform was available and he was one of the last players to make the 1947 Dodgers out of spring training. The Dodgers would later use a #43 for pitcher Johnny Van Cuyk when he was called up in September.



2007-04-12 23:05:29
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Indeed, the Dodgers switched from zip-fronts to button-ups for the 1947 season, but photos of Robinson in uniform in early 1947 show he's the lone Dodger wearing a 1946 zip-up jersey. (hat tip to UniWatch).
2007-04-12 23:07:14
2.   bhsportsguy
On numbers, I got a copy of NY Yankee media guide and there was the section with the all-time numerical roster of the team.

According to the guide, the Yankees were the first team to have numbers and the players were given numbers based on their batting order. The Yankees first used numbers in 1929.

Of all the famous numbers, only one was ever used just once and then on that player's retirement, the number was retired.

Any guesses?

The closest Dodger to have that distinction is Don Drysdale. He was the first person to wear 53 and after he retired, Wimpy Paciorek wore it for one season and then changed numbers. No other Dodger wore it for the next 14 years and it was retired in 1984.

The answer is Lou Gehrig, who I think may be the only player with that distinction to be the first and last player to wear and number and to have it retired when you left the game. His number was 4.

2007-04-12 23:12:26
3.   Bob Timmermann
Looking at the photo accompanying the article, that is indeed true.

It's from Times Select, so I can't reproduce it obviously. The Dodgers won the game 14-6 beating up on Yankee hurler Marius Russo, who was trying to make a comeback from an injury.

Russo didn't make it.

2007-04-12 23:13:32
4.   Bob Timmermann
I don't think a number had been retired before Gehrig. There weren't a lot of opportunities to do so.
2007-04-12 23:43:34
5.   bhsportsguy
The only Dodgers to wear 42 other than Jackie Robinson (at least until this Sunday) were George Jeffcoat in 1939 and Ray Lamb in 1969.

The Dodgers did not retire a number until Old Timers Day in 1972 when they retired Robinson's, Campanella's and Koufax's.

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