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Dodgers: A Happy Birthday to the Last Man Not Named Clayton Kershaw to Wear No. 22

If you’re a Dodgers fan on Twitter, you should be following the always-excellent “Dodger Cards” account (@dodgers_cards), run by Chad Simmons, which provides a ton of useful information including “happy birthday” posts to former Boys in Blue nearly every day. And every once in a while, the sometimes-adequate Jeff Snider (hey, that’s me!) will chime in with some additional information on one of his posts.

Wednesday was one of those days, when Chad tweeted a happy birthday to former Dodger and current Padres announcer Mark Sweeney.

When I saw that tweet from Chad mentioning that Sweeney was the last Dodger to wear number 22 before Clayton Kershaw, I immediately remembered hearing Sweeney himself tell the story. In June 2019, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) held its annual convention in San Diego, and one of the panels was a live taping of Rob Neyer’s excellent podcast called “SABRcast with Rob Neyer.” On this particular episode, Rob was joined on stage by Sweeney and another current Padres broadcaster, former Cy Young winner Randy Jones.

As part of that conversation, Sweeney told the story of when he, at 38 years old and in the final season of his 14-year career, had the opportunity to pass his number along to a future Hall of Famer. I happened to be in the room for this conversation, coincidentally wearing a Clayton Kershaw 22 t-shirt because I know how to dress for a classy convention. Here’s the transcript of Sweeney’s tale, and I’ll embed the episode below if you want to listen (it starts around the 18:15 mark).

Clayton Kershaw came up as a 20-year-old in spring training, throwing 97-98 miles an hour with a curveball, and everyone talking about, “This is the guy, Sandy Koufax,” as we all do, we reference who the next Sandy Koufax is. Well, that’s not fair to this young man.

So, halfway through the season, they said, someone comes up to me, I think it was Russell Martin, the catcher at the time, and said, “Hey, Clayton Kershaw loves the number 22.” At that point, I wanted to take mine off, rip my “SWEENEY” of the back of my uniform, and put it in his locker.

And I went up, I literally went up that day to Mitch Poole, our clubhouse guy, and I said, “Clayton Kershaw needs to wear this number. He’s gonna be in it for a long time, and hopefully it’s 20 years. We don’t know how long it’s gonna be, but he needs to do that.”

And he said, “Well, we can’t do that, for PR reasons. They’ll have to change all the books.”

I said, “Mitch, change the books and just make a footnote that our 25th player on the roster is changing his uniform. They’re not gonna care about that.”

But that changed. I still tell Clayton Kershaw, to this day, he owes me a Rolex watch or something.

Happy birthday, Mark, and thanks for giving up your number!

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