The Mystical 47
Set your phasers to stun as we warp into the mystical #47*. The best of the myriad lot to wear #47 is Jesse Russell Orosco, A Santa Barbara (CA) native, Orosco was not drafted as a high school player while attending Santa Barbara High School. So off he went to Santa Barbara City College. He was originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the January 1977 draft, but did not sign. In the 1978 January draft, the Twins selected him in the 3rd round. He signed and reported to the Elizabethton (TN) Twins (Appalachian-Rookie) and had a sparkling 1.12 ERA in 40 IP.
Once Orosco had passed his one year mark with the Twins, he was sent as the PTBNL to the Mets in the December 1978 Jerry Koosman deal. The Mets wasted no time, sending him to the Tidewater (VA) Tides (International-AAA) and he even got his first sip of coffee with the Mets in 1979. In 1980 he moved down to the Jackson (MS) Mets (Texas-AA) before returning to Tidewater in 1981 and reappearing in New York as well. Orosco would be a key member of those great Mets teams of the 80s, racking up 107 saves and a 2.73 ERA (133 ERA+) in 595.2 IP. He got the final out when the Mets beat the Astros in the 1986 NLCS and also when they upset the Red Sox in the classic 1986 World Series. In December 1987, he was sent to the Dodgers in a 3 team deal with the Athletics. He played out the final year of his contract with the Dodgers and was effective, 2.72 ERA (124 EWRA+) in 53 IP.
Hank Peters signed him to a four year deal in December 1988 and Orosco did amazing in 1989, a 2.08 ERA (192 ERA+) in 78 IP, a 1.026 WHIP and 3.04 K/BB ratio. But he was just league average in 1990 (101 ERA+) and slightly above in 1991 (113 ERA+). So that December he was sent to the Brewers in a conditional deal by John Hart as he was already 34 and most likely on the downside of his career. But Orosco beat the odds and had another 12 years in the majors, not becoming a liability until his final season in 2003 at age 46. Orosco would finish his 24 year major league career as the all-time leader in appearance with 1252, almost 100 more than Mike Stanton. Interestingly enough, the player Orosco was originally traded for by the Twins, Jerry Koosman, also made the final out in the Amazin’ Mets 1969 World Series triumph. The final batter that Koosman retired was Davey Johnson, who ended up being Orosco’s manager on the 1986 squad.
*The mystical 47 got its start at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. [Note that this is not the same as Cal Poly Pomona, which is actually in Pomona, CA.] In 1964, two Pomona students embarked on a summer grant project that #47 occurred far more often in nature than random distribution would explain. This grew into a lore that professor David Bentley produced a mathematical "joke" proof that 47 was equal to all other integers. A graduate of Pomona College by the name of Joe Menosky became a story writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The number 47 occurs in almost every episode of the program and its spin-offs. J.J. Abrams carried this tradition into the recent Star Trek movie and into the series Fringe.
A Brief History
Other than Orosco, there has not been much in the way of other pitchers who stand out here. The other pitchers with over 100 IP include Ed Farmer, Fred Beene, Scott Scudder, Jack Morris and Jeremy Sowers. But the best ERA+ of the lot is Jack Morris at 83. And the player with the best ERA+ other than Orosco is Bruce Ellingsen at 114, but he only had 42 IP.
So that leaves us to talk about the hitters who wore #47. The first player to wear #47 was Jack Conway in 1941. And although his triple slash of 500/500/500 looks spectacular, it was only in 2 PA. After Conway, the next 28 players to wear #47 were all pitchers. But the current player wearing #47 is Shelley Duncan. And as he is only the second and final hitter on the list, he is obviously the career leader.
The son of former Tribe catcher Dave Duncan, Shelley grew up in Oro Valley, AZ and then attended the University of Arizona. He was drafted in the second round in 2001 by the Yankees and started a slow climb through their farm system. He never cracked an 850 OPS until 2007 as a 27 year old with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees (International-AAA). He got his first cup of coffee in 2007 and spent most of 2008 and 2009 in AAA, only accumulating 80 total MLB PA those two seasons. After being granted free agency, he signed with the Indians in 2010. He split both 2010 and 2011 between Columbus and Cleveland, but got 506 PA in Cleveland with a decent 246/320/451 114 OPS+ line. He currently splits time in LF with Johnny Damon.
The One Year Wonders
Jack Conway, Red Embree, Paul Calvert, Mariano Pieretti, Bruce Ellingsen, Victor Cruz, Don Collins, Mike Armstrong, Darryl Akerfelds, Jeff Kaiser, Jack Morris, Terry Clark, Ron Villone, Rich DeLucia, Dave Elder, David Cortes, Jeremy Sowers, Luis Vizcaino and Jose Veras all wore uniform #47 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Jack Conway SS (1941) 500/500/500, 171 OPS+, 2 PA; switched to #4 in 1946
Red Embree RP, SP (1942) 3-4, 19 G, 6 GS, 3.86 ERA, 63 IP, 90 ERA+; was #40 in 1941; switched to #30 in 1944
Paul Calvert RP (1943) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 4.32 ERA, 8.1 IP, 76 ERA+; unknown # in 1942; switched to #33 in 1944.
Ken Sanders RP (1973-1974) 5-2, 24 G, 0 GS, 3.99 ERA, 38.1 IP, 98 ERA+; also #33 in 1973; claimed off waivers from Twins
Bruce Ellingsen RP (1974) 1-1, 16 G, 2 GS, 3.21 ERA, 42 IP, 114 ERA+; also #13 in 1974; traded by Dodgers for Pedro Guerrero
Fred Beene RP (1974-1975) 5-4, 51 G, 1 GS, 5.72 ERA, 119.2 IP, 65 ERA+; also #33 in 1974; traded with Steve Kline, Fritz Peterson, and Tom Buskey by Yankees for Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw
Mike Armstrong RP (1987) 1-0, 14 G, 0 GS, 8.68 ERA, 18.2 IP, 53 ERA+
Jeff Kaiser RP (1988) 0-0, 3 G, 0 GS, 0.00 ERA, 2.2 IP, no ERA+; was #48 in 1987; switched to #46 in 1989
Jesse Orosco RP (1989-1991) 10-8, 171 G, 0 GS, 3.11 ERA, 188.1 IP, 130 ERA+; sent to Brewers as part of a conditional deal
Jack Morris SP (1994) 10-6, 23 G, 23 GS, 5.60 ERA, 141.1 IP, 83 ERA+
Joe Roa SP, RP (1995-1996) 0-1, 2 G, 1 GS, 7.04 ERA, 7.2 IP, 73 ERA+; traded with Jeromy Burnitz by Mets for Paul Byrd, Jerry Dipoto, Dave Mlicki and Jesus Azuaje (PTBNL); traded as PTBNL with Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez and Jose Vizcaino to Giants for Matt Williams and Trenidad Hubbard (PTBNL)
Terry Clark SP (1997) 0-3, 4 G, 4 GS, 6.15 ERA, 26.1 IP, 77 ERA+; lost on waivers to Rangers
Rich DeLucia RP (1999) 0-1, 6 G, 0 GS, 6.75 ERA, 9.1 IP, 76 ERA+
Dave Elder RP (2002) 0-2, 15 G, 0 GS, 3.13 ERA, 23 IP, 142 ERA+; traded by Rangers for John Rocker; switched to #49 in 2003
David Cortes RP (2003) 0-0, 2 G, 0 GS, 12.00 ERA, 3 IP, 41 ERA+; purchased from Dos Laredos (Mexican)
David Lee RP (2003-2004) 1-0, 12 G, 0 GS, 6.75 ERA, 12 IP, 69 ERA+; traded by Dodgers for Alex Requena
Scott Sauerbeck RP (2005-2006) 1-1, 82 G, 0 GS, 4.62 ERA, 48.2 IP, 94 ERA+
Joe Borowski RP (2007-2008) 5-8, 87 G, 0 GS, 5.57 ERA, 82.1 IP, 81 ERA+
Jeremy Sowers SP (2008) 4-9, 22 G, 22 GS, 5.58 ERA, 121 IP, 76 ERA+; also #45 in 2008; was #45 in 2007; switched back to #45 in 2009
Luis Vizcaino RP (2009) 1-3, 11 G, 0 GS, 5.40 ERA, 11.2 IP, 81 ERA+
Jose Veras RP (2009) 1-2, 22 G, 0 GS, 4.38 ERA, 24.2 IP, 98 ERA+; purchased from Yankees
Shelley Duncan LF, DH, PH, 1B, RF (2010-2012) 246/320/451, 114 OPS+, 506 PA (2012 stats not included)
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #47 has been worn 44 times by 30 different players covering 37 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #47 was shared in a season six times, 1973, 1974, 1987, 2003, 2008 and 2009. It was shared by three players in 1974.