The number on the back of a baseball player’s jersey is more than just a number. In a game filled with superstition, having your lucky number could make a huge difference in your performance.
Players will go to great lengths to acquire their desired number. If another player on the team already wears it, the two parties work out a trade. This often leads to large sums of money or extravagant gifts being exchanged.
But when that number is retired by the franchise, that player is out of luck. It’s time to find a new number.
Predictably, Frazier was denied. Teams don’t un-retire numbers. It doesn’t happen. It was an absurd request by Frazier.
And yet, the whole thing gets even more ludicrous. Frazier wanted the Yankees to un-retire No. 7. Yes, he wanted to wear Mickey Mantle’s number!
The whole thing sounds too outlandish to be true, right? Well, that might be the case. General manager Brian Cashman quickly responded to Waldman’s story, calling it “totally untrue,” and saying it “never happened.”
You can be the judge. Deadspin has the audio of the event, but here’s the transcript of Waldman’s exchange with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN:
Waldman: “Did you hear the Clint Frazier story? Clint Frazier actually asked the Yankees if they ever un-retire numbers.”
Benigno and Roberts [laughing]: “Did he really ask? What number did he want, I want to know. Three?”
Waldman: “No, he wanted No. 7”
Benigno and Roberts [still laughing]: “Are you kidding me? Oh my god. Did he even know who Mickey Mantle was?”
Waldman: “I have no idea.”
So, who do we believe here? Did Waldman get bad information from someone, or is Cashman trying to cover it up to protect his player?
If all of this is true, we’re dying to know how Yankees officials reacted to the request. Did they think it was a joke? Were they able to keep a straight face? How many milliseconds did it take to tell Frazier it wasn’t going to happen?
This is, perhaps unbelievably, not the first time a player has made this particular request of a team. When Chuck Carr was a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals, he reportedly asked the team if he could wear No. 1, according to Jeff Babineau of the Orlando Sentinel. When told that number belonged to Ozzie Smith and was retired, Carr responded “in with the new, and out with the old.” At the time Babineau wrote the story, Carr had received 38 at-bats in the majors.
While the Frazier story may not be true, it seems like the damage may have already been done. It’s out there and fans have seen it. It’s uncertain whether they’ll see Cashman’s side of things, and even if they do, they might still believe Frazier was bold enough to make the request.
Given Mantle’s stature, and the fact that Frazier has yet to play a game in the majors, we imagine the response from those fans will not be kind to the youngster. If it happened, you have to applaud his confidence. It takes a lot of gall to work up the courage to ask that question.
Those are good traits to have if you’re going to play in New York. The fans and the media are already unforgiving, so being able to shake off rejection and believe in yourself can only help. That’s a good thing, in this case, because after this mystery Frazier is going to catch a lot of grief from fans when he finally gets the call.
(BLS H/N: Deadspin)
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