One of these weeks, I'll find a good quote from a hitter from outside the east coast. This is the third week in a row where not only did the quote come from a pitcher, but one also with ties to New York.
On July 31, 1989, which is traditionally the trading deadline in Major League Baseball, the New York Mets traded five players (Rick Aguilera, David West, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, and player to be named later Jack Savage) to the Minnesota Twins for All-Star pitcher Frank Viola. Viola was in the middle of a sub-par year for him, 8-12 with an ERA of 3.79. As a Twin, his uniform number was 16. But now, he was with the Mets. As an 8 year veteran, you'd think he would have bargaining power to get that number from the player currently wearing it. Guess again.
You see, Dwight Gooden, "Dr. K" himself had uniform number 16. And when asked if he would give it up for Viola:
Viola eventually settled for number 26 (which belonged to Kevin Tapani) for the remainder of the year. In 1991, switched to number 29. Only after he left for the Red Sox in time for the 1992 season did he get his number 16 back.
Uniform numbers, among a million other things, are important to athletes. They may have chosen the number in honor of another player they idolized who also had the number. It may be a lucky number. It may be the number given to them when they first played little league. And when a new player comes to another team, if he wants a certain number, and another person has it, he will do anything to get it. Transactions in the past have involved cash, watches, jewelry, dinner tabs, you name it. But in this one instance, the good Doctor was not about to let it go. And being a superstar in New York, who could blame him.