Johnny 59

As the Milwaukee Brewers continue on into the post season, I’ve noticed that their closer, John Axford, wears #59 on his uniform. It just seems like more of a football player’s number to me, as baseball players seem to wear lower numbers than that. I did some looking around for others who have worn that number over the years.

For the Cubs (always my first point of reference), who started wearing numbers in 1932, nobody donned #59 until 1961. That means that nearly thirty years passed before there were any #59s for the Cubs. The first three number 59s were coaches in the 1960s, and then the number didn’t appear again until 1996, or 31 years later. Two low-profile players wore #59 in the late 90s, and two coaches have worn it since. So the number has no history to speak of in the Cubs organization or, I suspect, any other organizations either.

I then looked at the numbers that have been retired by all of the teams in Major League Baseball, and discovered that no team has yet honored #59 with this distinction. Looking at all of the numbers for members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the only other player in the 50s at all–numberwise, at least–is Don Drysadale, who wore #53.

I’m not suggesting that John Axford should be grouped in with any of these players of old. Rather, I’m suggesting that the number he wears on the back of his uniform is, if not unprecedented, then at least unusual. Just like that facial hair he’s sporting. But hey, if it’s working for him, so be it. It’s easier to look at than Brian Wilson’s beard, at least.

Note: There’s the Springsteen version of Johnny 99, and the Johnny Cash cover. You can’t lose either way.

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