COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#44)
By Paul Semendinger
Sometimes things have an answer right from the start.
I can still hear him. I’ll probably always be able to hear him. It was majestic from the first moment I heard the words. I can still hear Bob Sheppard’s voice announcing, “The right fielder, number forty-four, Reggie Jackson…number forty-four.”
It was pure wonder and magic. And joy.
I also loved the supportive chants from the crowd, “Reg-gie… Reg-gie… Reg-gie.”
He was the first true superstar I remember watching playing the game. Reggie Jackson was bigger than life.
Reggie wasn’t my favorite player. But I loved him. I loved them all, of course. They were all superheroes, but Reggie Jackson was the superest hero of them all.
Number forty-four…REGGIE JACKSON.
In the long history of the Yankees, only eight players wore #44.
The first player to wear #44 was an outfielder named Bob Seeds. He wore #44 in 1936. He also wore #22 in that season, a season in which he appeared in only 13 games. That was the extent of his time with the Yankees. As a portent of things to come though, Seeds did hit four home runs in those thirteen games. I’m just not sure how many homers Seeds hit while wearing #44.
The number then lay dormant for many years until it was worn by a Least Among Them Yankee, Frank Verdi, for his only big league game in 1953.
Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who became much more famous as a New York Met, wore uniform number forty-four in 1955. He played in all of one game that year. When he next reached the Major Leagues (again with the Yankees) in 1958, he was wearing #20. (In that one game in 1955, though, Throneberry went 2-for-3 with a double and three runs batted in. He even had a stolen base!)
Dick Tettelbach, a Yankee for all of two games (and a big leaguer for all of 29 games), wore #44 in 1955. He went 0-for-5 as a Yankee.
Ken Hunt wore #44 in 1959 and 1960. He played in 31 games as a Yankee and hit .294.
Bill Sudakis was a Yankee for 89 games in 1974. He batted .232/7/39.
And Terry Whitfield wore wore #44 in 1975 and 1976 when he played in 29 total games and batted .272/0/7.
And then there was Reggie.
Reginald Martinez Jackson.
The Superest Hero of Them All, at least to this nine-year-old kid.
Those three home runs on that magical October night… My goodness! I smile, always, when I think about it. Tears of joy and wonder and an attachment to a sport and a team, a bond, forged forever.
It’s all wonder and goodness.
I’ll always love Reggie Jackson.
Reggie Jackson played in 653 games as a Yankee. He hit 144 home runs. He drove home 461 runs. Reggie’s batting average as a Yankee was .281.
In the post season, Reggie Jackson hit 13 home runs as a Yankee. Thirteen homers in 38 games! He drove home 31 runs and he batted .299.
It was all magic and wonder and greatness.
That was Reggie Jackson, the greatest Yankee, by far, to ever wear uniform #44.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com.
PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES: