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Positions by the Numbers

Have you ever wondered what a 6-4-3 was in the game of baseball? Interestingly enough, each position on the diamond is represented by a number. These numbers help scorekeepers keep tabs on the plays that have occurred throughout the game. As we dive into the history of baseball numbers, the importance of their existence, and a guide to each position, you will learn why so many people say that baseball is a game of numbers

The History of Baseball Jersey Numbers

Before baseball, two Australian football teams became the first organized clubs to implement numbers on their jerseys. Both Sydney Leichardt and HMS Powerful donned uniforms with squad numbers in 1911. By the 1912 season, football in New South Wales required that all teams assign numbers to players. Word soon got out about the efficiency jersey numbers afforded players, coaches, and officials, and other sports soon followed suit in the coming years.


By 1929 the New York Yankees gave their players uniform numbers based on a player’s position in the lineup. Earle Coombs, the Yankees leadoff hitter, wore the number one. Mark Koenig hit second and wore two, and so forth down the lineup. However, this was only the case for the hitters 1-8 in the lineup. The backup catcher was given the number nine while pitchers wore the numbers 10-14, except for 13 as it was deemed too superstitious for use. 

Notable players to earn their numbers based on lineup placement included Babe Ruth (3), Jimmie Foxx (3), and Lou Gehrig (4). Officially, numbers did not become standard on all MLB jerseys until 1937, when the Philadelphia Athletics added numbers to their home and away uniforms.

Lou Gehrig’s number 4 was officially retired by the New York Yankees in 1939. This was the first jersey number to be retired in professional baseball history.

Baseball Position Numbers

When keeping a scorebook for the game of baseball, you will need to know the numbers associated with each position. There are nine total positions on a baseball field, and thus each position will be represented between 1-9.

As a reference, the following is a list of baseball numbers and the positions they represent

1 - Pitcher

2 - Catcher

3 - First Base

4 - Second Base

5 - Third Base

6 - Shortstop

7 - Left Field

8 - Centerfield

9 - Right Field

Now back to the 6-4-3 prompt at the beginning of the article. Each time a fielder touches the ball, on a play where an out is recorded, their positional number is included in the final scoring. A double play where a ground ball is hit to the (6) shortstop, who then tosses the ball to the (4) second baseman, who then throws the ball to the (3) first baseman, is recorded as a 6-4-3 double play. If only an out is recorded at second base and the runner is safe at first, the play would be scored a 6-4 fielder's choice because the throw to (3) first did not result in an out. 


A scorekeeper’s worst nightmare. When a base runner is caught between bases, each position that touches the ball during a pickle will go into the official scorebook (assuming an out is recorded). For your viewing pleasure, here are some of the longest rundowns in MLB history. The first play was just your standard 1-5-6-4-1-6-4 putout.


Let’s throw it back to the days of youth baseball. The days when every player would play every position. You’d rotate around the diamond, and if you were lucky enough, you even got to wear the team catcher’s mitt and gear. Now let’s think outside of the box for a second…

Has an MLB player ever played every position in a single game?

Yes. Five different MLB players have played every position in a single MLB game. The first player to achieve the unthinkable was Bert Campaneris (September 8, 1965) of the Kansas City Athletics. Since then, Cesar Tovar (September 22, 1968), Scott Sheldon (September 6, 2000), Shane Halter (October 1, 2000), and Austin Romine (September 30, 2017) have all accomplished the feat. 


Like we said, baseball is all about numbers. Numbers exist throughout the game. From statistics to positions, if you like numbers, you'll probably love baseball. And if baseball is your sport, JustGloves is your place. We love to talk ball. We also happen to sell bats and gloves. So give us a call or shoot us an email, and we’d be more than happy to help you find the equipment you need for your next season. 

We are JustBats, and we will be with you from Click to Catch!

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