Top number worn by foreign ballplayers in Japan: 42

According to the Pro-baseball: Dictionary of Foreign Players (プロ野球「外国人選手」大事典), the top number worn by foreign ballplayers in Japan is 42. I think this is pretty interesting because its the same number that was worn by the great Jackie Robinson, best known for his breaking of the color barrier in the major leagues. But another interesting point concerns Japanese superstition. The number 4 is pronounced shi and can also mean death (死) while the number 2 is pronounced ni (に). Put together and they mean shi-ni ( 死に) or death. So, number 42 is avoided by Japanese players. Below is a list of foreign ballplayers who wore number 42 in 2011:

  1. Carlos Torres … Yomiuru Giants … Pitcher
  2. Bryan Bullington … Hiroshima Carp … Pitcher
  3. Brett Harper … Yokohama Baystars (now the Yokohama DeNA Baystars) … Infielder
  4. Tony Blanco … Chunichi Dragons … Infielder
  5. Alfredo Figaro … Orix Buffaloes … Pitcher
  6. Dee Brown … Seibu Lions … Outfielder
  7. Alex Cabrera … Softbank Hawks … Infielder

Of the 12 teams in the Nippon Pro-baseball league, 42 was issued to foreign ballplayers 7 times. Three teams issued the number 42 to Japanese born ballplayers: the Lotte Marines (pitcher Ryoji Katsuki), the Yakult Swallows (pitcher Yuki Shichijoh) and the Nippon Ham Fighters (former Detroit Tigers pitcher Masao Kida who joined the Fighters at the ripe age of 42). Also, no foreign ballplayer in Japan has chosen number 13. Interesting!

Just for fun here is a list of the top 5 numbers worn by foreign ballplayers in Japan and the number of players who have worn them over the years.

Rank Number Total
1 42 95
2 4 85
3 44 49
4 49 43
5 5 40

Also check out Ichiro sporting the number 42 during Jackie Robinson Day

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