Pirates coach makes uniform decision

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister and relief pitcher Jose Veras had their own motivations for switching uniform numbers this season.

Banister did it in memory of a fallen friend. For Veras, it was about getting back a lucky number.

Banister changed from No. 55 to 17 to honor the late Ron Carelock, a childhood friend and former teammate at LaMarque (Texas) High School. Carelock died in a car accident Oct. 17, 1981 — a cruel twist of fate for an athlete who wore No. 10 in basketball, 17 in baseball and 81 in football.

"(The school) actually retired his number (17), so I asked his parents if they minded if I wore No. 17 for my senior year," Banister said. "They said it was fine because our relationship went back to our childhood days.

As a player at Baytown (Texas) Junior College, Banister broke his neck in a collision at home plate. A vertebrae was crushed, leaving him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.

Banister was wearing No. 17 that day.

"When I made my return to the field, I told myself I'd never wear that number again," Banister said. "I thought about the whole significance of him wearing it and it was the number I was wearing, and the things that had happened."

Banister wore No. 28 when he made his major league debut in 1991. However, 28 wasn't available when he spent four seasons as the Pirates' field coordinator from 1999-2002. It belonged to outfielders Al Martin and John Vander Wal.

Left-hander Paul Maholm now wears 28. Banister contemplated wearing No. 17 again when hired as bench coach by manager Clint Hurdle, but infielder Josh Fields had it.

"When we traded Josh (during spring training), I decided to see if it was a possibility," Banister said. "What better way• For me, it is in a way a tribute to Ronnie. Also, it helps me wash away some old memories in my own mind, too."

Veras changed from No. 48 to 43, mostly because his favorite number (41) has been taken everywhere he has played since being traded from the New York Yankees, where he served as setup man for closer Mariano Rivera.

When Veras was acquired by the Cleveland Indians, catcher Victor Martinez had 41 so Veras switched to 43. He wore No. 43 again last season with the Florida Marlins because pitcher Chris Volstad had 41.

Now, Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit wears 41.

"I carried 41 in New York because that was the number they gave me and I got good numbers. I was pitching behind Mariano, and he was 42," Veras said. "That was like a matching number; that was a good year for us."

Additional Information:

17 again

Notable Pirates who have worn uniform No. 17:

Jeff Banister: 2011

Pedro Alvarez: 2010

Sean Burnett: 2009

Bobby Hill: 2003-05

Dale Sveum: 1996-97

Bob Walk: 1986-93

Lee Lacy: 1979-84

Phil Garner: 1977

Dock Ellis: 1970-75

Donn Clendenon: 1961-68

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