Here's how McCutchen chose his iconic No. 22

January 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos’ Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Andrew McCutchen has worn only one number as a Pittsburgh Pirate: No. 22. With the double deuce on his back, McCutchen became a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger, a one-time Gold Glover and the Pirates’ first MVP Award winner since Barry Bonds. But back in 2009 when he was the new kid in town, McCutchen intended to wear No. 22 for just one season.

As McCutchen was reintroduced to Pittsburgh on Friday, he shared his original intention for No. 22 to be a one-and-done, as well as what ultimately changed his tune.

McCutchen was -- and still is -- a fan of Ken Griffey Jr. He described Griffey Jr. as his idol, likely watching countless highlights of The Kid during his childhood in Florida. So when McCutchen made his debut with the Pirates in 2009, he, too, wanted to rock No. 24. There was just one small holdup.

When McCutchen was called up, pitcher Tom Gorzelanny was already wearing No. 24. Instead of Griffey Jr.’s digits, McCutchen wore No. 22, an aesthetically pleasing number, but not his digits of choice.

McCutchen predicted that Gorzelanny likely wouldn’t be on the team in 2010, which would open the door for him to wear Griffey Jr.’s signature number. Sure enough, the Pirates traded Gorzelanny ahead of the ‘09 Trade Deadline. But while McCutchen had the opportunity to make the switch, his tone shifted when he looked into the stands and started seeing the No. 22 -- his No. 22.

“As the season went on that year in 2009, I started to see people wear my jersey,” McCutchen said. “I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to keep 22.’ I would feel bad if I wore 22, then the following year, I’m wearing 24.”

McCutchen may not have worn No. 24 with the Pirates as he envisioned, but in 2022, he finally had the opportunity to do so with Milwaukee. Last Spring Training, McCutchen was in the middle of discussing the opportunity to wear No. 24 when Mike Vassallo, the Brewers’ senior director of media relations, gave McCutchen a phone with Griffey Jr. on the line. For the full story, click here.

Upon returning to Pittsburgh, McCutchen didn’t have to worry about bartering with teammates to reclaim his number. Not only was the No. 22 vacant, but no Pirate has worn the number since McCutchen was traded. McCutchen credited the organization, specifically clubhouse and equipment manager Scott “Bones” Bonnett, for taking care of the number during his five seasons away from the team.

“I’m sure Bones has had his dustups with some guys who may have come and might have wanted to wear 22,” McCutchen said. “I've got to thank those guys for preserving it, and also respect the players who have come here for not necessarily requesting it. It speaks a lot for them.

“I appreciate them, and I appreciate anyone who played a part in it. It’s nice to be able to wear it and to know that no one else wore it ever since I’ve put it on. Ever since Xavier Nady left in [2008], I’ve been wearing 22.”