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Linking Names and Numbers: The Game

May 27th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Basketball, Football

Four years ago I suggested a parlor game of my own devising. As I recall, it came from my staring at a four-digit clock on a treadmill.

Start with a year and match it with any event that happened in the 365/366 days attached to that year. For instance: 2016, Cubs win the World Series … 1941, Pearl Harbor attack.

Whoever can correctly match the highest number of years-with-events in a countback — consecutively, that is — wins. Any incorrect pairing, and the contestant is out of the game.

(This might be fun for history classes in high school or college. I never copyrighted the idea, so feel free. Then again, nearly nothing is new under the sun; somebody probably already has done this, though I have not yet heard of the board game called “Counting Down the Years”.)

Another idea that has been knocking around in my head for a while and, as far as I can tell, I have not suggested previously in the 3,000 or so entries on this blog is this one:

Pair the name of an athlete to every jersey/shirt/sweater number you can manage, starting with zero and working up consecutively. It can be any sport … but it has to be a number you can prove that person wore.

It will be good for figuring how much junk is cluttering your brain … and it also will peg you to a certain era of sports history — probably corresponding to athletes active between your own fifth and 20th birthdays. When you were a fan and when your memory was sharp.

(It also will reveal your favorite sports teams.)

Let’s see who I come up with … and I have done no prep for this.

Here we go!

0 — A bunch of NBA guys have worn 0, but the guy I am most confident about having worn it is a 20th century outfielder named Oddibe McDowell.

1 — Pee Wee Reese, I think. Dodgers shortstop. And so many soccer goalkeepers that I’m not even going to go there. Maybe the most confident/arrogant/presumptuous number an athlete can wear.

2 — Tommy Lasorda, Dodgers manager. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees.

3 — Babe Ruth. When he began wearing a number, about halfway through his career. Or Willie “Three Dog” Davis, Dodgers outfielder.

4 — Uh-oh. This should be easy, such a low number … I’m going to come back to this. A Yankee? A zillion soccer guys … I’m pretty sure Brett Favre wore it. I’m going with him. (Maybe Lou Gehrig, but don’t hold me to it.)

5 — Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles third baseman. I wore No. 5 in high school baseball because of Brooks.

6 — Steve Garvey, Dodgers. Bill Russell, Boston Celtics.

7 — Mickey Mantle, pretty sure. Cristiano Ronaldo.

8 — Kobe Bryant. Also John Roseboro, 1960s Dodgers catcher. It was like they occurred to me simultaneously. Yogi Berra. Clint Dempsey.

9 — Again, a soccer player? Why is it their numbers do not stick with me? I know thousands of really good players have worn 9, but I am having trouble coming up with one I’m sure wore it. It could be I recognize soccer players from their shape, not their numbers? Hmmm. OK, Wally Moon, Dodgers outfielder. Yeah, that’s just weird.

10 — Landon Donovan, Lionel Messi, 10,000 other soccer forwards.

11 — Mesut Ozil, Arsenal forward. (I watch Arsenal a lot.)

12 — Tom Brady. Joe Namath. Lots and lots of quarterbacks.

13 — Wilt Chamberlain. Kinda perverse, for him to do that, but maybe he knew it was his bad luck to be a contemporary of Bill Russell. Dan Marino, too, I think, who never won a Super Bowl.

14 — Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers quarterback. Took a long time to get that one.

15 — Davey Lopes, Dodgers second baseman.

16 — Andre Ethier, Dodgers outfielder. Joe Montana, quarterback.

17 — Ugh. Lots of NFL quarterbacks, but none I am sure about.

18 — Bill Russell, Dodgers shortstop. Roman Gabriel, Rams quarterback.

19 — Lance Alworth, NFL receiver.

20 — Don Sutton, Dodgers pitcher.

21 — Eddie Meador, Rams safety.

22 — Ack.

23 — Michael Jordan kinda owns this number. Sorry, LeBron.

24 — Walter Alston, Dodgers manager.

25 — You’d think …

26 — Wendell Tyler, Rams running back.

27 — Willie Crawford, Dodgers outfielder.

28 — Wes Parker, Dodgers first baseman.

29 — Harold Jackson, Rams receiver. Had to go away and come back to dredge it out of the memory banks.

30 — Maury Wills, Dodgers shortstop.

31 — Wow. In my mind no one has ever worn 31 — when I know hundreds of NFL guys have

32 — Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, O.J. Simpson … a popular number.

33 — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

34 — Elvis Peacock, Rams running back. (Not making this up; I promise.)

35, 36, 37 … Wow. I am hitting a wall. From here on I will go only with numbers I’m fairly confident about.

43 — Jim Jodat, Rams running back. Stuck in my head somehow.

44 — Jerry West, Lakers. John Riggins, NFL running back.

47 — Jackie Robinson. (Oops. This is WRONG. It was 42. Subtract 10 points from my total.)

48 — Bill Simpson, Rams safety.

49 — Rod Perry, Rams cornerback.

51 — Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears linebacker.

52 — Rick Kay, Rams linebacker.

53 — Don Drysdale, Dodgers pitcher.

56 — Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants linebacker.

60 — Dennis Harrah, Rams guard

61 — Rich Saul, Rams center.

63 — Me, in high school football. Also Jerry Kramer, Green Bay Packers.

66 — Mario Lemieux, NHL player. Ray Nitschke, who had a great name for a linebacker. NICHE-kee.

70 — Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings lineman. (Yet I am not sure what number his more celebrated teammate, Alan Page, wore.)

74 — Deacon Jones, Rams lineman.

75 — Merlin Olsen, Rams lineman. (WAIT. This one and the previous are switched. Jones wore 75, Olsen wore 74. Each is in the Hall of Fame. Subtract 20 points.)

77 — Doug France, Rams lineman.

78 — Jackie Slater, Rams lineman.

80 — Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers receiver.

81 — Ron Jessie, Rams receiver. (Where did that come from?)

85 — Jack Youngblood, Rams lineman.

89 — Fred Dryer, Rams lineman.

90 –Uh-oh. Lots of NFL defensive linemen have worn numbers in the 90s, but I am having trouble fixing any of them to a specific number.

99 — Wayne Gretzky, Mark Gastineau, NFL lineman.

100? Has anyone every worn triple digits in a significant sports league? I think not.

Wow. I thought I would do far better than that. I have hunches for several of those blank numbers, but I went only with those rising to the “pretty sure” level.

Pretty much any semi-serious sports fan would do beat my score — which is correctly linking 50 numbers with a player who wore that number.

The thing about being old is … you can dredge up some numbers from 50 years ago, but you don’t have a high level of certainty for anything from the past decade.

Lots of lists are out there, to search, if you want to see … like all the QBs who wore No. 17.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene // May 28, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    This serious sports fan (and a oldster as well) could dredge up about eight numbers (Jordan, Ruth, Robinson, Mantle, and the retired Mets’ numbers for Seaver, Piazza, Stengel and Hodges). But I am a special case, having grown up as a 150 miles from the nearest TV station (and no TV at all until my senior year in high school and then only on some evenings when the weather patterns were right), 300 miles from the closest major league team—the Kansas City Athletics (if they could be termed “major league”) and 240 miles from the closest “major” college football team—Colorado. Uniform numbers for some reason were just not important on the radio and to this day I pay little or no attention to them. So despite having spent my last three years of high school as the sports editor of the Lamar (Colo.) Tri-State Daily News (for the princely sum of $40 per month), I am a complete failure at this game.

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