Friday, March 4, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...7th Heaven

Baseball and numbers, they go hand in hand, they were meant for each other.

Baseball and it's relationship with numbers, drives the passion between baseball and the fans, hits, RBIs, HRs, wins, losses, etc.

Players first wore numbers on their uniforms as a standard after the 1927 Yankees tacked them onto the backs of their players, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

In our countdown to the start of the 2011 baseball season we've been looking back at baseball and numbers, including the #3 of the Bambino, and the #4 of the Iron Horse of those '27 Yanks.

Today it's the number 7...left field on your scorecard.

7 is very special number in baseball.

For me, the #7 will always be the Tigers Pudge Rodriguez.
Why, you ask? 

Well, when Pudge played those fantastic 5 years for the Tigers, he wore #7, and he wore it well.

Rodriguez was magnificent from the start, leading the Tigers to the World Series in 2006, and playing Gold Glove baseball as the Tigers catcher, and...becoming the 1st, and only, favorite player of my wife, who fell in love with Pudge, and me, in the same year, 2005.

The number 7 is the 7th inning stretch and "Take me out to the ball game."

The very first 7th inning stretch was an accident, and, as legend has it,  that legend is very large, indeed.

President William Howard Taft was at a Washington Senators game in 1910, when, after the top of the 7th inning, the robust 300 lb. President arose for his seat to stretch his legs.

Fans thought the President was leaving, rose to applaud as he left, then sat back down after Taft sat back into his seat for the rest of the game.

#7 is the best of 7...It's Game 7 of the post season, Game 7 of the World Series, and Mickey Lolich jumping into the arms of battery mate Bill Freehan after beating the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.

The number 7 has been worn by many big league ball players, from Tigers short stop Tom Veryzer in the late 1970s, to J.D. Drew of the Red Sox in 2004, and by the great Twins catcher Joe Mauer today.

#7 is the A's Bobby Crosby and the Mets Jeff Francouer.

#7 is also Johnny Neves, who, while playing for the Fargo-Moorehead Twins of the Northern League, wore the #7 BACKWARDS in 1951...Nevens, spelled backwards, is...seveN.

#7 has graced the backs of many a fine ball player, like Orioles short stop Mark Belanger, Rocky Colovito of the Tigers and Indians, and of future Hall of Fame catcher-second baseman-out fielder Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros.

#7 is the Mets Jose Reyes, Hubie Brooks, Kevin Mitchell, and the magnificent Ed Kranepool, the best #7 the Mets have ever had.

Yes, 7 is special in big league baseball, and I know your saying, hey, how can you, did you, really forget...Mickey Mantle?

Of course not, how could I.

There are now, and there have been, many number 7s to play bis league baseball over the past century, some with success, some not, but there is only one #7.

Mickey Mantle IS #7.

Mantle came into the big leagues on April 17th, 1951, the heir apparent to the great Joe DiMaggio.
Mantle first put on number 6 as a Yankee, playing right field on that first game at Yankee Stadium.

After a slump, and being sent down to the minors, Mantle returned to the Yankees in '51, putting on the now famous #7 Yankee Pinstripes, and in 1952, the center field job was his, for the next 18 years.

 "The Mick," Mickey Mantle.  He was larger than life to kids growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bob Costas, the terrific baseball announcer for the MLB Network grew up loving Mantle so much, that he carried a 1958 Topps All-Star card of Mantle in his wallet for years.

I believe the card had been either lost, or stolen out of Costas wallet, and then found, causing the Mantle card to be kept elsewhere.

Mickey Mantle, my Uncle Bob once told me, was the fastest player he ever saw run from home plate to first base, weather from the left side, or the right.

There will be many more number 7s to come to the big leagues, but #7, in baseball, is Mickey Charles Mantle.

Who'd I forget"

Who's your best #7?

Please comment below, and thanks for reading my blog...on to #8...hey, that's great!

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