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.)