Study o’ 54

Study of the uniform number 54. This photo is wacky as hell. We're not sure what happened here - just go with it.
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:

Jolbert Cabrera
.252 BA in 115 at-bats for Reds in 2008; wasn’t in majors in 2009.

Elizardo Ramirez
4-14 with a 6.12 ERA for Reds from 2005-07; wasn’t in majors in 2009.

Andy Abad
0-for-3 in 5 plate appearances for Reds in 2006

Luke Hudson
10-11 with a 4.92 ERA in 2002, 2004 and 2005 for Reds

Joey Hamilton
5-12 with a 5.90 ERA in 2001-03 with Reds before ending his 10-year career

Jared Fernandez
1-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 2001-02 with Reds

Bill Selby
.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!

5 Comments

  1. JTNo Gravatar

    Wait…the Reds coulda had Jeter?

  2. PHiLNo Gravatar

    Yes, they could have had Jeter (6th overall). But, to be fair to the Reds (and almost all other MLB clubs), there wasn’t a whole lot of talent that came out of that 1st round. Phil Nevin #1 over all. Shannon Stewart was 19th. After those two, you can probably only pick 1 or 2 from the entire list who had even marginal MLB careers – Paul Shuey (2nd)? Ron Villone(14th)? Rick Helling (22nd)? Jason Kendal(23rd)? Charles Johnson (28th)?

    Not exactly what I’d call “eye-popping”.

  3. DaveNo Gravatar

    Jason Kendall has hit .290 in 14 Major-League seasons – most as a catcher! He has 2,000 hits – only the eighth full-time catcher in MLB history to reach that milestone – and his 177 stolen bases rank third all-time among catchers. He’s a three-time All-Star. I know he doesn’t hit for power, but he hasn’t exactly had a “marginal MLB career” either.

    Preston Wilson (No. 9) had a pretty decent career too before it was derailed by injury.

    Also, Johnny Damon was a compensation pick (No. 35) of the Royals.

    That being said, I don’t disagree with you … pretty weak for a first round. Year before the first round included Dmitri Young, Manny, Cliff Floyd, Shawn Green, Shawn Estes, Aaron Sele, Hatteberg. Year after had A-Rod, Billy Wagner, Derrek Lee, Chris Carpenter, Trot Nixon, Torii Hunter, Varitek.

  4. PHiLNo Gravatar

    As a Pirate, Jason Kendal was certainly better than marginal. My memories are more slanted towards his years after Pittsburgh with the As, Cubs and Brewers. I seem to have a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude toward him for some reason.

    I suspect that most MLB GMs would jump at the chance to pick a guy in the first round if they knew he’d play for 14 seasons, have an OBP of .369, gather 2000+ hits and have a K/BB ratio of <1.

    Also, Rich Gossage wore 54. If Chapman has a career even close to the Goose, the Reds have done well.

  5. DanNo Gravatar

    For the record, Ewell Blackwell wore number 47 for the Redlegs.

    Great reference for this kinda stuff:

    http://saultonofswat.wordpress.com/numbers-through-the-years/

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