NEW YORK, N.Y. - Primarily because of a rich history in professional baseball and retiring so many jerseys and numbers of its all-time greats, the New York Yankees are running out of uniform numbers.
So the team is considering using Roman Numerals up to 4,001, or MMMI (in Roman Numerals) on players' uniforms to solve the problem. Sports teams use natural numbers for uniforms from 1 to 100, plus 0 and 00, for a total of 102 available numbers for players' jerseys. But for the New York Yankees, this might be too limited.
"We've been considering using integers, too," said New York Yankees bat girl Stacy Parks, who also carries around the team's Gator Aid (but only for practice and home games). "That would give us the possibility of having 204 numbers. It might work for a while, but what happens when the team is expanded past 67 - say to 87, 97 or 107 - players for the Grapefruit League games? Like for the Grapefruit League games the Yankees play when we travel to Florida or Arizona? What happens if and when we have a string of great seasons and retire a boatload of players' numbers to celebrate it all? Then we're again at the threshold of hell with 209 numbers taken of only 204 available. What a nightmare!" [to editorialize a bit, when Ms. Parks was describing this number problem, her calm voice crescendoed into high-pitched screaming, yelling, and hissing.}
Funny as the New York Yankees' fictional ball girl and Gator Aid carrier's description is, Yankees' management and ownership are stymied by this number crunch. According Sportswriter Michael Baumann in a Jan. 22 article in Knuckleball: "Add in eight uniformed coaches and a bullpen catcher, who also gets a number, and you're up to 76 guys for 101 numbered spots. Teams often invite former players as guest instructors, so, for instance, Greg Bird can spend a day or two picking Reggie Jackson's brain about hitting, but Yankee instructors tend to wear the numbers they wore in the pros, regardless of whether they're in current use or retired, so that could add to the number shortage, but doesn't."
"The real problem - and why this is a Yankees-specific issue - is the retired numbers. Teams retire numbers to honor great players from their history, and not only do the Yankees have more history (they were the first team to put numbers on uniforms, and the first to retire a number), they've had more great players. Not only that, they also have a fairly liberal policy regarding jersey retirements - they don't require a player to have made the Hall of Fame, for instance, and I support that. A player can be iconic for one franchise without meeting the standards of Cooperstown, and retiring a number is a great way to signify that status to fans who might be too young to remember. Ultimately, retiring Elston Howard's number, for instance, makes a bigger difference than retiring Babe Ruth's," the Knuckleball article explains.
Meantime, back at the FIELD OF SCREAMS, bat girl and Gator Aid carrier Stacy Parks compalined: "That whole thing about using integers, about all I can say is Katy bar the door! It might be a bummer for a player to have -5 or -8 on his jersey. How would that player feel about being called 'Negative Five' or 'Negative 8' and having a big fat zot associated with his name? It could lead to some feelings of shame and may even cause him to have irreparable emotional strife. That player may even have to undergo Post Traumatic Stress treatment for a long time after he retires from the MLB."
"We're number crunching like crazy. Each team brings its 40-man roster to spring training, plus players who are non-roster invitees. These guys normally represent a mix of non-Rule 5 draft-eligible prospects and veterans on tryouts," Parks said. "The Yankees haven't announced their full list of NRIs for 2016, but last year they brought 27."
"Confused? What's next, algebraic equations? Cryptic and weird Trigonometrical diagrams?" Parks muttered.
"How will sports writers and sports announcers deal with a mess like this? Would they actually have to solve these Algebra and Trig problems just to say what outfielder caught the line drive that almost took the pitcher's head off?
"This would be too confusing and would take up too much time. Most newspapers and TV stations can't afford to have really smart number guys with Ph.D.'s working with newspaper and magazine sportswriters and TV sports broadcasters just to figure out who's who out there on the field. Who caught the fly ball? Well his number is this," Parks complained, then opened a Gator Aid and poured a heaping helping of Jack Daniels into the opening of the plastic neck of the nutrient-and-mineral-rich thirst quencher.
Already you can see that things are getting a little tight-that's 67 players to take to Florida or Arizona, which is why you get so many wacky numbers in Grapefruit League games.
Parks broke open a Gator Aid and winced. She shook her head, then told this Spoof writer: "I think the ownership of the Yankees is going to Roman Numerals up to 4,002 though. This will take care of this nasty problem forever. Even if the Yankees have stellar years and win one World Series every decade until the next millennium, I doubt if we'll need to push the Roman Numerals to MMMMMII, or five thoudand and two."
She finished the Gator Aid and took a long swig from the bottle of Jack Daniels which was in her other hand.
"Don't tell the players or the coaches about me drinking on the job. They might not like it," she said.
"Hell's fire, girl, hand me over that bottle of firewater," I ordered her.