Worst attempt at a pun in a headline ever? Perhaps. But were you wondering who gave up No. 54 for 22-year-old Cuban pitching phenom Aroldis Chapman? Nobody. And it hasn’t brought much luck to the seven former Cincinnati Reds who have worn it before him in the 21st Century – or even those who wore it during the 20th Century.
If that number seems familiar and you’re racking your brain trying to remember which star Red has worn it recently, stop. It shouldn’t seem familiar.
Here are the seven who have donned 54 since 2000, and what they did while wearing it for the Reds:
.252 BA in 115 at-bats for Reds in 2008; wasn’t in majors in 2009.
4-14 with a 6.12 ERA for Reds from 2005-07; wasn’t in majors in 2009.
0-for-3 in 5 plate appearances for Reds in 2006
10-11 with a 4.92 ERA in 2002, 2004 and 2005 for Reds
5-12 with a 5.90 ERA in 2001-03 with Reds before ending his 10-year career
1-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 2001-02 with Reds
.228 BA in 92 at-bats for Reds in 2001
What about the ’90s, you ask? Keith Glauber. Chad Mottola. Steve Foster. Tim Leary. Biggest name there? Leary, I guess … who was 2-7 in 14 starts with the Reds after they acquired him from the Dodgers in 1989. (He was 78-105 in 13 seasons overall.) Biggest bust? Definitely Mottola, our 1st round pick (5th overall) in the 1992 draft who played 59 Major League games and hit 239 home runs in 16 minor-league seasons. (BTW, the Yankees took Derek Jeter one pick later.)
Tom Browning wore 54 when he came up with the Reds in 1984. But then he switched to 32 in 1985, when all he did was win 20 games.
You: OK, OK, didn’t someone from the Big Red Machine like Gary Nolan or Pat Darcy or someone like that wear 54?
Me: Nope. According to Baseball Almanac, the number wasn’t worn by any Red in the 1970s.
You: You’re kidding? Alright, Bobby Tolan wore it, didn’t he? Or was it Vada Pinson? Jim Maloney? Someone wore it in the ’60s, right?
Me: Try Darrell Osteen. 0-4 with an 8.35 ERA for the Reds from 1965-67.
You: Geez. OK, old school. Frankie Baumholtz or Ewell Blackwell or someone like that??
Me: Nope. Uniform numbers in the 50s were very rare before 1950. And who knows what numbers were worn way back when … records weren’t kept as well … so I guess you could get me if you saw an old photo or something.
So (as far as I can tell), does Aroldis have big shoes – er, a big jersey – to fill after the Reds gave him 5-4? No, not so much. You could almost make the argument that it’s a little jinxed! (Sorry again, Chad Mottola.) Nah! Go Chapman!