Skip to content

History Mystery: Did Two Cleveland Ballplayers Wear the Same Uni Number in the Same Game?

We all know by now that two players can wear the same number on a college football team (as long as they don’t appear on the field together). And you might occasionally see two MLB teammates wearing the same number during a spring training game, when rosters are stuffed to the gills.

But you’d never see same-numbered MLB teammates during the regular season.

Or would you?

That question is prompted by a faaaascainting find from longtime Uni Watch reader Ferdinand Cesarano. He was recently listening to the archived radio call of a Yankees/Cleveland game from Sept. 22, 1974, and heard Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto mention that two Cleveland players had worn the same number in the previous day’s game!

Here’s the quote from Rizzuto, followed by the embedded audio so you can hear it for yourself:

I tell you, with all the ballplayers that are brought up towards the tail end of the season, they run out of numbers. Remember, in yesterday’s ballgame there were two players wearing the same number — Rico Carty and Bill Gogolewski. They were both wearing No. 32, which is a little unusual.

It’s not just unusual — as far as I know, it would be unprecedented!

Let’s try to deconstruct this, one question at a time:

Did Carty and Gogolewski both play in the previous day’s game?

Yes — the box score of the Yanks/Cleveland game from Sept. 21, 1974, shows that Gogolewski entered the game as a relief pitcher with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and tossed two innings, exiting with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. (This was one of only five games he ever appeared in for Cleveland — he was indeed a late-season call-up, just as Rizzuto implied.) Carty, meanwhile, appeared at a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth.

What were Carty’s and Gogolewski’s usual uni numbers?

According to Baseball-reference.com, Gogolewski wore No. 32 that season. Carty, however, is listed as having worn No. 9. So if both players really wore 32 in the same game, Carty would have been the anomaly.

How could that have happened?

Ferdinand Cesarano — the guy who started us down this rabbit hole — speculates that something must have happened to Carty’s jersey and that he had to wear Gogolewski’s instead. After all, Gogolewski had just come out of the game, so he could have removed his jersey and given it to Carty.

Is that realistic? Like, would Gogolewski’s jersey even have fit Carty?

Baseball-reference.com lists Gogolewski at 6-4, 190, and lists Carty as 6-3, 200, so they were definitely in the same neighborhood, size-wise.

Is there something else we’re overlooking here?

Yes! After looking up the height/weight info, it occurred to me: “Wait a minute — did Cleveland’s 1974 road uniforms have NOBs?” Yup, they sure did. So that pretty much eliminates the idea of Carty wearing Gogolewski’s jersey, since the sight of Carty coming the plate with “Gogolewski” on his back would’ve been even more noteworthy than two players wearing the same number in the same game!

Maybe something happened to Carty’s jersey and they had an extra NNOB/32 jersey lying around for him to wear..? At this point, I’m stumped.

What about the radio call from the game in question — can we refer back to that?

Unfortunately, the audio from that game does not appear to be available. All we have is Rizzuto mentioning it in the following day’s game.

Are there any newspaper mentions of this?

You’d think there would be. But I searched on Newspapers.com, which is pretty comprehensive, and came up empty.

Is Rizzuto a reliable narrator here?

Having grown up listening to Phil Rizzuto on the radio, I can confirm that he was very much a character behind the mic — colorful, prone to going off on tangents, sometimes prone to exaggeration. Still, it’s hard to imagine him being so off-base on something as fundamental as this. I’m inclined to believe what he said. We just need to find the backstory. (Unfortunately, Rizzuto died in 2007.)

Could you check with Rico Carty?

Rico Carty is still alive and recently turned 83. I have my doubts about him remembering a pinch-hitting appearance from 48 years ago. I’m also not sure how to get in touch with him. (He had a charitable foundation in the Dominican Republic, but it’s apparently been defunct since 2016.)

———

So for now, I’m stumped. If anyone knows more, I’m all ears. Meanwhile, it’s an intriguing history mystery.

(Big thanks to Ferdinand Cesarano for bringing this one to my attention.)

More on Uni Watch
Comments (27)

    Ah, very good thinking on the player names in the uniforms. I hadn’t considered that.

    So the Universe now has one more mystery!

    My biggest question is why is somebody listening to an archived game from 1974? Was there something of note from the game that was being listened to?

    I’ll often watch old Mets games on YouTube on off days during the season or during the winter. It’s a fun nostalgia trip.

    I subscribed to MLB Audio primarily to listen to old games (if you’re a Pirates fan, listening to live games is… rough). But frustratingly, past games aren’t available on the mobile app, only on desktop. I used it for a couple years just listening to any game that looked interesting, while at work or while doing chores, etc. Gave it up for 2022, but missing it, so might subscribe again.

    Just wish MLB would make past seasons available in the mobile app!

    Oh, man, if there is something more enjoyable than listening to or watching an old baseball game (apart from riding my bike), then I don’t know what it is. I have listened to or watched plenty of these games; and I try to organise a group watch whenever I can.

    I prefer a regular season game that has no historic event in it over a famous game, so that it can be enjoyed not only as a document but as a normal competition.

    On my YouTube channel there are playlists containing well over a thousand games. You can do a search in YouTube for the word “baseball”, any year, and my name, and you will find a playlist with sometimes more than a hundred games. (For some years there are so many games that multiple playlists are required.) The oldest radio games that I have there are from 1934; the most recent TV games are from 1996.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Ferdinand. I listen to old Mets games from the 60’s and 70’s on the radio all the time, and love every little bit of it. I grew up listening to Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner, and it feels warm and fuzzy to be back with them, and hear them bring to life the game, the old Mets, the NL greats they faced, etc. Bonus for games at Shea Stadium– hearing Jane Jarvis on the organ.

    We were so lucky in New York in the 1970s, with Lindsay Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy with the Mets, and Phil Rizzuto, Bill White, and Frank Messer with the Yankees. Whenever I can hear either of these two classic broadcast teams, I get the feeling that *this* is what baseball sounds like.

    Dug through The Sporting News issue that covered the game in question and no mention of the uni number double dip in the game blurb that accompanies the boxscore for September 21, the team page (Ken Aspromonte being fired and the ‘Frank Robinson as his replacement’ speculation was the big topic). Nor was it mentioned in ‘A.L. Flashes’ where little nuggets of news showed up.

    I also grew up listening to Phil Rizzuto broadcasting Yankees games. And based on my memories of him my vote is that he was confused.

    If this happened, Carty’s regular uniform must have been damaged or stolen between Friday night (his last appearance) and Saturday afternoon (the game in question). The only ways he could come out with a different number are:
    1) there was a NNOB replacement for a September call up, but not a regular player.
    2) They ripped Gogolewski’s name off of his jersey between the bottom of the 7th (when he came out) and top of the 8th (when Carty pinch hit).

    IMO, I find both alternatives unlikely and think Scooter was mistaken, but it would be interesting to get confirmation. Either way, I know you doubt Carty would remember, but I would think such a unique concatenation of circumstances would be memorable, even decades later.

    Another person to ask would be Gogolewski, assuming you could find him, and ask if at least alternative #2 from above happened.

    I think it’s entirely possible that Carty wore Gogolewski’s jersey after the nameplate was ripped off. Cleveland was ending a road stretch and heading home the next day. Something might have happened to Carty’s jersey. Teams had two sets of road uni’s back then, but it’s possible all of the other set were dirty and stuffed into duffle bags to take back to Cleveland to get laundered. Were jerseys sent out to get cleaned while on the road? It sounds bizarre in 2022, but having your own employees clean both sets upon returning saved money.
    The manager suddenly wants Carty to pinch hit (he only appeared in 33 games all season) so quick work with a seam ripper or knife blade solved whatever insane problem caused Carty to be jersey-less. If he faced the manager until he got on the field, and hope Gogolewski (who pitched the day before) isn’t needed, maybe no one would catch on!

    Huh – this is pretty wild, if true.

    I have nothing else to add though, as my research skills are null. :)

    Here’s another way it could have happened: Carty is in the clubhouse, thinking he’s not getting in the game. He’s half dressed and playing cards. Word comes back from the dugout “skipper is looking for you”. He puts on the first jersey he grabs (plus anything else he’s missing) and gets up the tunnel.

    Most likely to have happened, but strange that there is no mention of the same NNOB for two totally different players by anyone but Scooter. But I trust him to have been right about this one.

    Speaking of duplicated numbers in college football, Pittsburgh had two #10s on the field for a special team’s play, but they weren’t penalized.

    I would have grabbed a shirt with 32 on it automatically as it is my favorite uniform number, even with a totally different name on it.

    This is a fun mystery. Rizzuto was definitely a character, especially in later years. The Rizzuto of 1974 sounds much more focused on the game, especially on radio, than the Rizzuto of say the late 80s and 90s. As NOBs were realtively newer then, and never embraced by the Yankees, it is very possible that Phil did not concern himself much with them and just focused on the duplicate numbers.

    Keep in mind that Scooter was the guy who would sometimes record an at-bat as ‘WW’ in his scorebook as in ‘Wasn’t Watching’, at least according to Bill White.

    WW is one of my favorite notations. Since no one audits my scorebook, I accept my shortcomings.

    For most Sunday games the Braves bring back old players to sign autographs before games. Not really my thing, but from time to time Carty will be in the lineup. Rico was quite the character when he played for the Braves in the late 60’s/early 70’s. It’s said he carried his wallet in the back pocket of his uniform pants out on the field. Led the league in hitting, and was the first player to start the all star game as a write-in, his name not printed on the ballot. I’ll always remember attending a game with my grandfather, sitting in the left field bleachers when the Braves caught several runners in rundowns. Not known for his fielding, Rico jogged in to the infield and tagged out the runner to complete a triple play. This Sunday Carty is not slated to appear. Maybe next year.

    It’s said he carried his wallet in the back pocket of his uniform pants out on the field.

    The quote from the great book Ball Four by Jim Bouton: “Note about Rico Carty — he doesn’t trust banks. He also doesn’t trust the clubhouse valuables box. So that big lump you see in his back pocket during baseball games is his wallet.”

    Good stuff. Bouton’s follow-up book was good as well, titled “I’m glad you didn’t take it personally”.

    Ball Four = Apex!

    Whenever MLB books are brought up I mention:

    Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and “The Worst Baseball Team in History”―The 1973–1975 Texas Rangers by Mike Shropshire.

    This book is hysterical.

    Watching the Yankees game in YES and noticed that the YES graphic of the interlocking NY has the N on top of the Y three dimensionally. That really bothered me as I have always seen the NY with the Y on top of the N. Does this bother anyone else?!!…

    Gogolewski could probably be tracked down? Apparently he was serving as the chair of the Advisory Park Board of Oshkosh, WI until 2018

    Just adding here that the Guardians and Braves probably have Carty’s contact information.
    Also, much of this speculation is based on Rizzuto mentioning the name on Carty’s #32 jersey. It was probably “Gogolewski” and Rizzuto just didn’t bother mentioning it in referring back to it the next night.

Comments are closed.