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Meet Ray Lamb, the last Dodger to wear Jackie Robinson's iconic No. 42

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- It is the most revered number in all of sports, the first number retired by an entire sport, a number that will forever belong to one man.

The No. 42 worn by Jackie Robinson has been immortalized in the Dodgers' annals, affixed to a Dodger Stadium wall, and deemed untouchable by any Dodgers player since then.

Well, almost untouchable.

This is a story of one of the biggest mistakes in Dodgers history, a mistake that lasted only two months but will be remembered for a lifetime.

This is how, in August 1969, the No. 42 was misguidedly given to a Dodgers rookie relief pitcher named Ray Lamb.

He was the first Dodger to wear that number since Robinson retired a dozen years earlier. He wore it for the rest of the 1969 season before the Dodgers' venerable clubhouse manager Nobe Kawano realized his error and snatched it away.

 

"I've got to have this number back because we're going to eventually retire it," Kawano said.

"Did I have that good of a year?" Lamb said.

Actually, for a Glendale kid who lasted five seasons in the major leagues, the mistake was magic.

With his back covered in the jersey of baseball's toughest pioneer, the bespectacled right-hander pitched fearlessly during what became probably the two best months of his career.

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