Partly named after Aaron, Malloy now wears his uniform number

June 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DETROIT -- Tigers rookie slugger has an appreciation for baseball history. His name in part derives from it. He was named after his father, Henry Malloy, who was named after the great Henry Aaron.

The younger Malloy wore number 42 in college at Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech in honor of Jackie Robinson. That obviously wasn’t an option when he got his first call to the Major Leagues a week and a half ago, not with 42 retired across baseball. So, while Malloy initially received number 36 for his debut in Texas, he thought about 44 as an homage to Hammerin’ Hank -- who wore 44 for all but one of his 23 MLB seasons -- and a tribute to his father, who made the trip to Texas along with his mom, to watch his debut against the Rangers.

However, 44 was taken. That number belonged to first-base coach Gary Jones. So, negotiations ensued.

“I lost a bet to him in Spring Training. I owe him a dinner,” Malloy explained to reporters last weekend. “So, I went up to him in Arlington and I’m like, ‘Jonesy, once I pay off my debt, what do I have to do? What wager can we put in place so I can get 44?’ His first response was, 'Oh, I'll just give it to you.'”

That seemed to settle matters, until Jones came back to him the next day and gave him a hard time.

“He said, ‘Ah, you know, I don’t think I can just give it to you. I’m having second thoughts,’” Malloy recalled. “He was like, ‘My [daughters], they love 44.’

“And I was like, ‘Jonesy, come on, whatever you need. I just think it would be so cool.’”

Malloy gave him his best argument: The family history, the cultural significance, everything.

“Then I said, ‘I just think it would be so cool that a young brother can wear number 44. And Jonesy was like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m not a brother, huh?’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, I didn’t mean it like that.’”

The conversation ended there, and Malloy wore 36 throughout the series in Texas. The Tigers had Thursday off before beginning a homestand last Friday against the Brewers. It marked Malloy’s first time walking into the clubhouse at Comerica Park.

Jones had a surprise waiting for Malloy: A number 44 jersey in his locker and on his nameplate. Jones had switched to number 86 in honor of his eldest daughter’s birth year.

“I had no idea,” Malloy told reporters. “It was a cool little surprise, and the first thing I wanted to do was find Jonesy and give him a big hug. And he was like, ‘You owe me.’

“I know I do. Whatever he wants. This is a dream of mine.”

It’s not only a nod to history, it’s also a bit of an early Father’s Day present.

“To have the opportunity to wear number 44 with the history that’s behind it -- not just Henry Aaron, the history of players who have worn that number and been successful -- it just brings good juju, good vibes,” Malloy said. “Just to be able to wear it and represent it well is all I want to do.”