KC Royals: Some interesting uniform number facts

(Photo by Dave Kaup/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dave Kaup/Getty Images) /

Most fans of the KC Royals know the history behind uniform numbers 5, 10 and 20, all retired in honor of George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White.

They also know baseball has universally retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

But how many know what the lowest uniform number used in Royals history is, or that three different players have worn it? Or what the highest number is in club history?

Utilizing Baseball Reference’s excellent data for the team’s numbers, let’s answer those questions and more with some Royals fun with numbers.

The lowest number available is also the lowest any KC Royals player has worn.

We start with zero. Many will remember speedy outfielder Terrance Gore donning No. 0 from in his and the similarly speedy Nick Heath wearing it a few games in 2020. However, the first Royal to wear No. 0 was George Scott in 1979. Scott, then 35, was in the final season of his 14 years in the major leagues. He wasn’t exactly known for his speed, but in the two months after being acquired in a trade with Boston and his release, Scott did manage a stolen base and two triples, giving him the most triples in Royals history by a player wearing 0.

The KC Royals have never had a three-digit number, but a pitcher came close.

The highest uniform number showed up in 2008 when pitcher Hideo Nomo wore 91 for three relief appearances. Well past his prime years, Nomo gave up nine runs in 4.1 innings before the club released him.

What KC Royals uniform numbers have had the most regular season use?

Based strictly on the number of players who have worn it over the years, No. 31 has seen the most variety with 33 different players using it in the club’s history. Only in 2011 and 1994 did the number go unused since 1976. Ian Kennedy (2016-20) wore the uniform the longest. Bret Saberhagen won a Cy Young Award in No. 31 in 1985, switched to No. 18 in 1988 and won another Cy Young in 1989.

No. 30 is next on the most-worn list. Danny Duffy became the 30th player to wear it when he switched from No. 41 in 2021 to honor the late Yordano Ventura. Shortstop U.L. Washington had the longest tenure in No. 30, wearing it from 1977-84.

Last season, Kyle Isbel became the 29th Royal to wear No. 28, and if Bobby Witt Jr. appears in the big leagues this season, he will become the 29th to wear No. 7 if he keeps the number he’s wearing in spring camp.

KC Royals uniform numbers worn by some of the club’s stars and others.

Over 13 seasons with the Royals, Willie Wilson wore No. 6 after briefly appearing in No. 32 in 1977 and No. 19 in 1976. After Wilson left for free agency following the 1990 season, the number is best remembered on the back of Lorenzo Cain for eight seasons.

Amos Otis was the second player to wear No. 26 for the Royals, taking the number in 1970 after Galen Cisco wore it in the franchise’s inaugural 1969 season. For the next 14 years, Otis was No. 26. Reliever Steve Farr took the number in 1985 and wore it for six seasons. Catcher Sal Fasano also spent six years in 26. Emmanuel Rivera last season became the 26th Royal to wear the number.

After wearing No. 13 in his first stint with the Royals, David Cone won the 1994 Cy Young Award in No. 22, a number also been worn by Dennis Leonard and Jim Eisenreich, but no player has worn it in a game since 2013. Manager Mike Matheny has the number now, and it’s the same number he wore for nearly all of his playing career.

One oddity is the No. 23. When looking at the Royals’ all-time wins leaders, Mark Gubicza is third with 132, Al Fitzmorris is tied for ninth with 70, Danny Duffy is 11th with 68 and Zack Greinke is 13th with 60 wins as a Royal, although he’s sure to add more now that he’s back with Kansas City. The common thread? All of them wore No. 23 for at least parts of their careers in Kansas City.

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There’s a lot of interesting history behind the Royals’ uniform numbers.