It was a small item — just one sentence, in fact — buried in the middle of an article about the Devil Rays in Sunday’s St. Petersburg Times. But it put a smile on my face and may have brought a frown to Shawn Camp’s. Here’s what it said:
“Don Zimmer signed up for another year as a senior adviser — his 59th in the game.”
And that means one of the most unique and inconspicuous rituals in sports will continue, because Zimmer changes his uniform number every season to match the number of years he’s worked in baseball. I’m not sure when he started doing this (anyone..?), but I think was in 1998, when he wore No. 50 to commemorate his 50th year in the game. It’s hard to find rear-view pics of him (photographers apparently can’t resist his captivating facial visage), so there are some gaps in the photographic record, but here he is wearing No. 53 in 2001, No. 54 in 2002, No. 56 in 2004, and No. 58 this year.
The reason Zimmer gets away with this every year — aside from being, y’know, so cute and cuddly — is that the uni numbers in the 50s tend to be unclaimed, so he can switch every year without taking anyone else’s number. Things are gonna be different next year, though, because the Devil Rays already have a No. 59: Shawn Camp. But he shouldn’t mind giving up the number, because he wore No. 58 with the Royals in 2005. And that number, now worn by Zimmer, is due to become free as soon as the calendar turns over at the end of this year.
(Incidentally, given all our recent chatter about retired numbers, just imagine the hassle of trying to come up with a number to retire for Zimmer.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: In case you missed Florida’s miserable mismatched/gator-patterned sleeves on Saturday, good views are available here, here, here, and here (with thanks to Ryan Armbrust, who also sent along some shots from Columbia’s 2003 homecoming game, when the team wore 1934 throwbacks — very cool). … The Maine-Endwell Spartans, a high school team in upstate New York, wear their team name on their socks — in purple, no less (with thanks to Eric Hawkins). … The whole “wear pink for breast cancer research” phenomenon scaled new heights of silliness the other day when the minor league Stockton Thunder dyed their ice pink — and, oh yes, wore pink trim — for their game against the Phoenix RoadRunners (thanks to Bryan Long). … Bitchin’ hosiery stylings at St. Stanislaus High School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi — check out the baseball and basketball teams (bonus points to Chris Lemley). … Good catch by Richard Craig, who writes: “As a longtime Charger fan, I saw something Sunday I can’t remember seeing before. They wore the powder blue throwback jerseys and fielded a player with a true bolt-to-bolt nameplate: San Diego State’s own Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, whose nameplate reaches across the white shoulder trim and onto the yellow bolt itself.” I don’t remember this happening with David Diaz-Infante, or Rolf Benirschke, or Ralf Mojsiejenko, or anybody else with a long surname. They always seemed to squeeze the letters closer together before. Of course, if our head coach were still playing, his nameplate would overlap the entire bolt on both sides. … According to a note in last night’s Comments section, someone on the Raiders — maybe Kirk Morrison — was wearing an American flag belt buckle during last night’s Raiders/Seahawks game. Can anyone get a screen shot? … Over on Chris Creamer’s board, someone posted a link to this amazing history of the Arkansas Razorbacks logo — great, great stuff. Uni Watch’s highest rating.