Gripp: Bruney switched to 99? Who does he think he is, Rick Vaughn?With Bruney switching to 99, he joins Alfredo Aceves as current Yankees with numbers in the nineties. They are two of only three people in all of Yankee history to wear a number in the nineties. The third is Charlie "King Kong" Keller.
Me: Vaughn has better control
Gripp: Maybe Bruney needs glasses
Me: Maybe he needs to bang Kate Hudson
Keller is a forgotten star of the 1940s Yankees. While he was a perpetual second banana to Joe DiMaggio, from his rookie campaign of 1939 through 1947, Keller never posted an OPS+ lower than 141, and led the AL with a 168 mark in 1943.
Age and a bad back began to sap Keller's skill in the late forties. He played just one complete season after returning from World War II, and was released by the Yankees after the 1949 season. Keller spent the next two seasons as a useful pinch hitting specialist with the Tigers, until they released him after the 1951 season. Keller returned to the Yankees in September 1952, but by then his former number 9 had been claimed by Hank Bauer, prompting Keller to switch to 99.
The Yankees currently have 37 players on their active roster. They have two more on the 60 day DL. They have a seven man coaching staff. They have fifteen retired numbers. Joe Torre's #6, Paul O'Neill's #21, and Bernie Williams and #51 are unofficially out of circulation, and Mike Mussina's #35 hasn't been issued in the first year after his retirement. Numbers are getting tough to come by.
In the next several years we'll assuredly see #2 and #42 come off the board, probably #13 as well, and there's a good chance we could see #20 and #46 disappear too. High numbers are fairly uncommon in baseball. To date, the tradition rich Yankees have had only six players wear numbers in the seventies or above, three this year and all but Keller within in the last ten years. In the future though, that will probably be far more common out of necessity. We may end up seeing triple digit numbers in spring training one of these years.
Check out Cliff from Bronx Banter's Yankees by the Numbers post where he explains the origin of uniform numbers in baseball and lists the greatest Yankee to ever to wear each integer. YankeeNumbers.com is also a great resource if you need to look up anything related to the subject.