When a player signs or is traded to a new team, his favorite number—possibly the one he’s been wearing since childhood—isn’t always available. Unless he’s a respected veteran and the number he wants belongs to a rookie, it’s very common for a trade or purchase to occur. This was first published in our 29th annual edition, Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.
Eli Manning and Jeff Feagles
The New York Giants acquired Eli Manning in the 2004 NFL Draft. Manning wanted to keep the #10 jersey he wore at Ole Miss, but it was already being worn by Giants punter Jeff Feagles. Feagles was willing to give up the number if Manning met one condition: an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida for Feagles’s family. Manning paid for the vacation, and got #10. (Feagles switched to #17, to commemorate his 17th season in the NFL.)
Jeff Feagles and Plaxico Burress
A year later, the Giants signed star wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who wanted to continue wearing the number he’d worn for the Pittsburgh Steelers: #17. This time Feagles agreed to give up his jersey number in exchange for an outdoor kitchen. Burress agreed, and Feagles built the kitchen, but Burress never reimbursed him for it. It may not have worked out for Feagles, but it didn’t work out for Burress, either. In 2009, Burress was assigned a new number: 09-R-3260, during his two year stint in Ulster Correctional Facility in upstate New York, for shooting himself in the leg with an illegally possessed handgun.
Chris Kluwe and Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb’s illustrious, 13-year NFL career came to a close in 2011 with one last hurrah as starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. But the former Philadelphia Eagle had to negotiate with Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in order to wear his #5. McNabb signed a contract agreeing to a $5,000 charitable donation, five mentions of Kluwe’s heavy metal band, Tripping Icarus, during press conferences, and one ice-cream cone. Unfortunately for Tripping Icarus, McNabb was short three shout-outs when he was released six games into the season. He still agreed to write the check to Kick for a Cure, a muscular dystrophy foundation…but he still owes Kluwe an ice-cream cone.
J. Burnett and Daniel McCutchen
A lot of baseball pitchers are superstitious. Most have their own personal—and often idiosyncratic—routines before and during a scheduled start. So it’s no surprise that A. J. Burnett simply had to retain his #34 when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012. Teammate Daniel McCutchen had the number, but was willing to surrender it if Burnett would agree to an unusual request: Burnett had to set up a college fund for McCutchen’s then-unborn daughter. A wise move: At the time, McCutchen was earning the league minimum, and as of last report, he’s pitching in the minor leagues.
Ifeanyi Ohalete and Clinton Portis
In 2004, the Washington Redskins sent cornerback Champ Bailey to the Denver Broncos in exchange for running back Clinton Portis. Portis wanted to wear #26, the number he wore in Denver, but to get it he had to pay Redskins strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalete for it. The price: $40,000. Then Ohalete was cut from the team in the middle of the season, before Portis had paid him the full amount, and Portis thought he was off the hook for the remaining $20,000. Not according to Ohalete, who sued Portis for the balance of what he was owed. A day before it went to trial, Portis and Ohalete settled the case for $18,000.
John Kruk and Mitch Williams
The 1994 exchange between these two Philadelphia Phillies teammates was very modest. Kruk gave up his #28 to Williams in exchange for two cases of beer. Years later, Kruk spoke to a reporter about the trade: “The only reason Mitch wanted the number is because his wife had a lot of No. 28 jewelry and he didn’t want to buy her any more jewelry. Not long after that, he got divorced and changed numbers.”