MORE THAN A NUMBER; by the Time David Freese Signed with the Pirates, Spring Training Was Half over. He Needed a Uniform Number, but There Was Not Much Left from Which to Choose. [Derived Headline]

By Biertempfel, Rob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 15, 2016 | Go to article overview

MORE THAN A NUMBER; by the Time David Freese Signed with the Pirates, Spring Training Was Half over. He Needed a Uniform Number, but There Was Not Much Left from Which to Choose. [Derived Headline]


Biertempfel, Rob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


By the time David Freese signed with the Pirates, spring training was half over. He needed a uniform number, but there was not much left from which to choose.

Equipment manager Scott "Bones" Bonnett could have given Freese a number in the high double digits. That's OK for a minor league pitcher or an offensive lineman but not for a veteran big leaguer and former postseason MVP.

There was, however, one low number available.

Seven.

Chuck Tanner's old number never has been officially retired by the Pirates, but Bonnett has hesitated to give it out since the beloved former skipper died in February 2011.

Before he stitched the name and number on Freese's uniform, Bonnett asked around about the infielder. Freese, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels, has a good-guy reputation.

"From all that I heard about him, I figured (Freese) kind of personified Chuck in some ways," Bonnett said. "So I was OK with it."

General manager Neal Huntington explained to Freese that No. 7 is held in high esteem among Pirates fans because Tanner was an everyman manager who guided the "We Are Family" World Series champs in 1979.

"He told me the number is semi-retired," Freese said. "When Neal mentioned that to me right out of the gate, I started getting uneasy about it."

Reluctantly, Freese wore No. 7 for the rest of spring training.

It simply didn't feel right to him.

A Google search turned up lots of info about Tanner that Freese, who was born in 1983, never knew.

"A lot of Pirates fans have a better understanding and a better relationship with Chuck Tanner than I do," Freese said. "To wear No. 7, even if it's just 'semi' retired, it didn't sit too well with me."

At the end of camp, as the 25-man roster took shape, Freese went to Bonnett and asked for a different number.

Outfielder Jake Goebbert had been designated for assignment, which freed up No. 23 -- Freese's number with the Cardinals from 2009 to '13. Freese is not a guy who is hung up on a special number, but he was glad to get his old digits back.

"If 23 wasn't available, I would've gone with a different number, no problem," Freese said. "I would've even taken a (high) number. …

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