As you've probably heard or found out on your own, today's date is 11/11/11. Today's date is actually November 11th, 2011, but it can be written as 11/11/11, which is interesting because those are the same number. Wow! That is arguably as or more interesting than 9/10/11, or 13/12/11 if you are English. If you are not English then this last one is much more interesting.
Because it is 11/11/11 and because there's nothing going on right now with the Mariners and because I don't feel like writing about Prince Fielder, I thought I would go over the long and storied history of Seattle Mariners players who have worn the number 11 on their backs. There have been eight of them*, and they will presumably be the only eight for as long as the franchise continues to exist.
* not 11 :(
This was the year that the Mariners first entered the league, and with their penultimate pick in the expansion draft, they selected outfielder Tommy Smith from the Cleveland Indians. Smith had worn #11 with the Indians, switching from #26 in deference to Boog Powell. Not a good player, Smith spent a chunk of the year in the minors, and got himself into just 21 games with the M's, batting 27 times. September 10th wound up being the final Major League game of his career.
|SEA (1 yr)||21||27||27||1||7||1||1||0||4||0||1||0||6||.259||.259||.370||.630||71|
The early Mariners didn't only get players out of the expansion draft - they also got players out of the Rule 5 draft, and in the 1976 Rule 5 draft (before there was even a team!), they nabbed infielder Charlie Beamon from the Kansas City Royals. Beamon spent the 1977 season in the minors somehow, but then he emerged in 1978, getting into ten games with the M's and starting three of them. In the Mariners' last game of the season, Beamon picked up his first two hits, and also drew a walk. Beamon would return in 1979, but he changed his number to #12.
Why did Charlie Beamon change his number to 12? Because over the offseason, the Mariners put together a package to land shortstop Mario Mendoza from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Mendoza wore #11. With Pittsburgh, Mendoza was a reserve, but he was brought to Seattle to start, and in his first full season he batted .198 with a 25 OPS+. A 25 OPS+. Despite that, Mendoza returned to start again the next year, and he played much better. He then wound up getting dealt to Texas, expressing his excitement to The Sporting News:
I know there are a lot of Mexican people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that’s going to motivate me to play better.
With the Rangers, Mendoza would not be allowed to keep his number.
|SEA (2 yrs)||262||706||650||53||142||16||6||3||43||6||4||25||104||.218||.246||.275||.522||41|
Back in the day, there was such a thing as the January amateur draft, and in the 1978 version of that draft, the Mariners used the fifth overall pick on first baseman Jim Maler. Maler was highly regarded coming out of Florida, and he arrived in the Majors - wearing #11 - on September 3rd, 1981, doubling off the Green Monster in his first at bat. He'd bat 26 times before the end of the year, and he came back in 1982. However, he would come back wearing #33, and his career swiftly dropped off. Correlation? Causation? One wonders.
In 1981, Jim Maler wore #11, and catcher Bud Bulling wore #9. In 1982, for who knows what reason, Maler switched to #33, and Bulling switched to #11. Here is Bulling's entire Bullpen page (where Bullpen is like the Baseball-Reference version of Wikipedia):
Caught Gaylord Perry's 300th win.
That's all. In 1982, Bulling was one of three semi-regular Mariner backstops, pairing a bad bat with a good arm. In 1983, he made five April appearances, the last coming on April 14th. That would be the last Major League game of Bulling's career. He reported to triple-A, and then I guess he retired. He either retired or he's the world's most patient free agent.
In September 1983, hot prospect Darnell Coles showed up on the Mariners wearing Bulling's #11 like some sort of scavenger. It never occurred to me before that two players on the same team could wear the same number in the same season, but it happened with Bulling and Coles in 1983, and it apparently happens all the time. It happened just this past season with #12 (Langerhans, Robinson) #15 (Bradley, Seager) and #29 (Cust, Pena). Coles was just 21 when he arrived, having torn through the upper minors, and in his first-ever start, he went 3-for-6 with a home run. He'd play well down the stretch, but when he returned in 1984, he wore #19. It was the second of nine different numbers he would wear over a 14-year big league career. I think that's a good indication of how his career went.
Coles switched numbers because, in November 1983, the Mariners acquired catcher Bob Kearney from the Oakland Athletics. Kearney was more of an established big leaguer than Coles was, and while Kearney hadn't worn #11 with the A's, whatever, he wanted #11 with the M's, so #11 was what he got. Kearney was a pretty poor hitter with a strong arm, but he quickly developed the reputation of being a lousy pitch-caller, and you know what, I'm just going to go ahead and post a paragraph from this story:
Already upset that Salome Barojas had demanded that Orlando Mercado catch him, Mike Moore also requested Mercado. When Kearney - who earlier in the season had called a ball hit inside the Kingdome a "wind-blown double" - saw the lineup card, he tore it up. When pitching coach Frank Funk asked Kearney to catch as Barojas did his between-start throwing, Kearney refused and Funk went and stuck Kearney's glove in the toilet. Learning that, Kearney walked out to the bullpen and decked Funk.
Jesus Christ, baseball used to be so much more batshit insane.
Kearney would serve as a regular for three seasons, but his playing time continued to diminish, and in July 1987, with Kearney having fallen behind on the depth chart, the Mariners released him. Shortly thereafter he signed back with the A's, but he wouldn't appear in another Major League game. In his final big league plate appearance, he doubled off Steve Carlton.
|SEA (4 yrs)||346||1067||987||91||228||52||3||19||96||8||8||42||175||.231||.265||.348||.613||67|
On September 12th, 1987, a third base prospect named Edgar Martinez made his Major League debut with the Mariners, wearing Kearney's vacated #11. Martinez would hold on to that number, and he'd go on to become pretty much one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.