Shortly after his signing, it was announced that Adam Ottavino would wear number 0. When he takes the field, he will become the first ever Yankee to wear the number. That leaves just 20 numbers under 100 that have never been worn by a Yankee player. Five other numbers have been issued to just one player in team history, only one which is retired: Lou Gehrig’s #4.
On a long enough timeline, the Yankees will probably eventually have to dip into triple digit numbers. They’re not in any danger of running out of numbers under 100 any time soon, but it may happen eventually.
Of current players who could be added to the list, there’s a decent argument to retire CC Sabathia’s #52. If Reggie Jackson got his retired for only five years in New York, then CC deserves consideration as well. Should Aaron Judge keep anywhere remotely close to the pace he’s set in his first couple years, #99 could very well end up in Monument Park. Other than those two, it’s too early to tell for anyone else.
Before any of that happens, the Yankees will need to use some other rarely used numbers. If the Yankees are willing to give out #0, then there are several others that should either be issued or re-issued. Here are five.
Only one person has ever worn this number: Gary Sanchez in 2015. The catcher was a September call-up that season, and eventually made it up for good the following season. although while wearing a different number.
This is on the list to test a hypothesis. Next time a highly-ranked prospect comes up for a cup of coffee in September, give them #73, test the number, and see if it’s magic.
You might not get the production that season. Sanchez was 0-2 in his only plate appearances that year. The following year, he exploded and put up a 170 wRC+, nearly winning Rookie of the Year in the process. Right now there is a 100% correlation between #73 and outstanding rookie seasons.
According to a definitely legitimate numerology graphic I found while googling, one of the characteristics of the #7 is being a perfectionist. One of them for #6 is being responsible. Those sound like they would combine to make a great baseball player.
(Note: the flip of that number, #67, has been worn by A.J. Cole, Mike Zagurski, and someone named Clay Christensen, so this methodology might not be air-tight).
If we’re giving out #0, we also could give out the one that looks even cooler on a jersey. While Ottavino wears the single number, several other players in major-league history have busted out the double. There might be a rule about not using the two at the same time, but you never know until you try. Hopefully, some prospective Yankee out there is a fan of Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
If the Yankees aren’t going to use it, they should just retire it. If they’re not going to retire it, just give it out to someone already. Since Paul O’Neill’s retirement two players, LaTroy Hawkins and Morgan Ensberg, tried to wear #21 to a...not great reception. Both instances happened in 2008, and no one else has tried to wear the number since.
The best chance to reintroduce it without it becoming a controversy might be to give it to a well-known, highly-ranked prospect making their debut. Still, the Yankees just had that chance with Gleyber Torres and didn’t try it.
At the end of the day, they just need to make a decision. If that’s to retire it, fine. Otherwise the situation around #21 will remain really weird.
Is this childish? Yes. Is this the only right answer? Also yes. Alan Mills in 1990 was the only Yankee to ever wear the number in the regular season. Presumably, it’s been worn in spring training when there are a couple dozen extra players around, but that doesn’t count.
The reliever had multiple stints in the bigs that year, and changed numbers at some point, as Baseball Reference also lists him as having worn #28 that year. According to Mills himself, he may have never actually worn #69 in a game, but if it made B-Ref, I’m going to assume it happened.
A.J Cole wore #69 with the Nationals, so presumably he may have at least considered asking for it again with the Yankees (he ended up with #67 in New York). Other than that pure guess, we’ll never know who, if anyone, has tried to wear the funniest number. Hopefully, it was one of Nick Swisher’s backup options.