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Zero Hero

zero Omar Quintanilla of the Mets is "the 14th player in major-league history to appear in a game wearing #0," reports Jared Diamond in The Wall Street Journal (2/24/14). The way Omar sees it, #0 is better than taking "an embarrassingly high number — the ones usually reserved for minor-league scrubs." And besides, it has potential for double meaning: "Is it a number?" he wonders. "Or is the letter ‘O’?" As in Omar, of course. About half of the baseball players who previously used the digit also had a first or last name starting with ‘O’.

One exception was Franklin Stubbs, who picked zero because one of his favorite players, Al Oliver, had worn it. Oliver was the first major-leaguer to choose zero, back in 1978, but says he did so for reasons other than his last name. "I was going to a new league, a new city, so it was like starting all over again," says Al, who previously had worn #16. "So ‘0’ was a new starting point." It all worked out for him: By the time he retired he had "a .303 batting average and 2,743 hits."

Whatever the reason, "it takes a confident person to walk onto a field in front of thousands of people with a giant ‘0’ on his back. Heckling comes with the territory." At Fenway, an announcer once introduced Al Oliver saying, "Up next … Nothing .. Al Oliver." Candy Maldonado of The Toronto Blue Jays "took some playful ribbing," when he went hitless, with teammates teasing that he was "zero for zero." But Omar Quintanilla sees only upside: "From zero to hero," he says. "That’s what I’m thinking."