The Baseball Desert

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Say it ain't, So

A random thought on So Taguchi's uniform number: 99. It's been annoying me for a while, because I figured that a number that high on a major-league jersey outside of Spring Training had to be some kind of ironic statement.

It turns out it's not ironic, but having read the actual explanation, I now wish it had been:
I was number 6 in Japan, so naturally my first choice was 6. Well, a guy named Stan Musial had that number retired a long time ago in St. Louis. Once I realized that, I thought, 'Well, I could still be connected to my old number 6 simply by turning it upside down.' But Enos Slaughter's number was retired, and it happened to be 9. So it occurred to me that I could use my number 1 from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They paused and said, 'We're sorry to tell you that Ozzie Smith was number 1, and that's also retired.' I figured the really high numbers must be readily available and said, 'How about two 6s, number 66?' Well, that was Rick Ankiel's number! So I asked about turning 6 upside down twice for 99, and finally I had a uniform number. I think everyone was relieved.
Yup, and so am I - relieved that I got to the end of his explanation without my head exploding.

I know that there's a lot of symbolism in uniform numbers, but this example strikes as so convoluted as to no longer have any symbolic meaning at all. It would have been so much simpler to just take a random number and run with it. And had he done that I wouldn't feel so guilty about disliking a player just because of the number he has on his back.