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Me and My Number

July 24, 2006
July 24, 2006

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July 24, 2006

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Me and My Number

DAVID ORTIZ
Red Sox DH

This is an article from the July 24, 2006 issue Original Layout

WHEN BIG PAPIbroke in with the Twins in the late 1990s, he got to know Minnesota great KirbyPuckett, who Ortiz says served as a valuable mentor to him. Upon arriving inBoston in 2003, Ortiz wanted Puckett's number 34. "Every time I look atthat number, I think about him," says Ortiz of the former outfielder(below), who died after a stroke in March. "He cared so much for us. Onetime when I was struggling, Kirby sat me down. He kept telling me what I neededto do to get better ... to keep fighting and never give up. I can't believehe's not here anymore."

GERALDLAIRD
Rangers C

"THE GUYShave given me a nickname," the light-hitting backstop says with a chuckle."One-five stands for One Man, Five Tools." The tools refer to abaseball scout's indices (ability to hit, hit with power, run, throw andfield), and with just seven career homers and three career stolen bases inparts of four seasons, Laird knows he's not quite all that. He used to wearnumber 6--an upside-down tribute, he says, to Ted Williams's 9--but it wassnagged from him when outfielder Brad Wilkerson came over in a trade beforelast season. "No negotiation, he just took it," Laird says. "But 15fits me good."

PETE ORR
Braves Inf.

WHAT ELSE wouldan Orr from Ontario wear? Pete's not related to Bobby, the Bruins great, buthas worn the number since youth hockey. "My teammates always wanted me towear number 4," says Pete, whose dad often showed him film of Bobby Orr(left) and whose middle name, like Bobby's, is Gordon. Bobby finds Pete'simitation flattering--"I'm honored if I had a positive influence onsomeone," he has said. Pete, meanwhile, says he got his 4 before asking forit. "The Braves said they gave it to me because it was the lowest numberavailable, that it had nothing to do with [Bobby]."

PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (ORTIZ)PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (ORTIZ HEAD SHOT)PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (PUCKETT)PHOTOTIM SHARP/AP (LAIRD)PHOTOJONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES (LAIRD HEAD SHOT)PHOTOCHRISTOPHER GOOLEY/US PRESSWIRE (ORR)PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (ORR HEAD SHOT)PHOTOTONY TRIOLO (BOBBY ORR)