Andrew "Willie" Wilmot, had worn No. 22 when he and Heyward had led Henry County to the 2005 Division AAAA Georgia State High School championship. Wilmot, a catcher, and Heyward were best friends. "We looked up to each other," Heyward told MLB.com. "He was fun to be around. Everybody around school loved him." Wilmot was a year older than Heyward, and he enrolled that fall at Walter State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee, to play collegiate ball. A year later he died in an auto accident. Heyward didn’t want to forget him. It wasn’t enough, he decided, to visit Ruston every off-season. He sought a way to honor his friend. Most of all, he wanted to keep Wilmot’s memory alive for Ruston, and for the Henry County High baseball team. What better way than to adopt his friend’s jersey? "There are people who will get together with you when it’s easy to walk the other way," he told cbsatlanta.com.
What a wonderful gesture by Heyward, not just when he first made the big leagues with the Braves (as that article states), but continuing to honor his friend's memory throughout his career. In addition to his great baseball talent, Heyward seems to be a first-class individual. Theo & Co. seem to have made it a priority not just to get the best ballplayers, but high-character guys.
The choice by Heyward means that Addison Russell, who wore No. 22 during his rookie season in 2015, will have to change. Wednesday afternoon, Russell tweeted his choice:
Via CubsByTheNumbers.com, here are all the No. 27 wearers in Cubs history:
Bobo Newsom (1932), Gene Lillard (1939), Eddie Waitkus (1941), Lennie Merullo (1941), Russ Meers (1941), George Hennessey (1945), Walter Signer (1945), Al Glossop 1946), John Ostrowski (1946), Dutch McCall (1948), Bill Serena (1949), Cal McLish (1951), Jim Brosnan (1954), Sam Jones (1955-56), Dale Long (1957), Dolan Nichols (1958), Jim Marshall (1958), Danny Murphy (1962), Don Landrum (1962-64), Doug Clemens (1964-65), Bob Raudman (1966-67), Clarence Jones (1967), Phil Regan (player 1968-72, coach 1997-98), Jim Tyrone (1972, 1974-75), Pete Reiser (coach, 1973), Champ Summers (1975-76), Joe Wallis (1977), Mike Vail (1978-80), Hector Cruz (1981), Mel Hall (1982-84), Thad Bosley (1984-86), Rolando Roomes (1988), Derrick May (1990-94), Willie Banks (1995), Todd Zeile (1995), Doug Jones (1996), Scott Sanders (1999), Corey Patterson (2000), Joe Girardi (2001-02), Damian Miller (2003), David Kelton (2004), Craig Monroe (2007), Casey McGehee (2008), Sam Fuld (2009), Casey Coleman (2010-12), Phil Coke (2015), Taylor Teagarden (2015), Austin Jackson (2015)
Not an inspiring bunch, you'll have to admit, though I see Lennie Merullo in there. Probably the best of them is Sam Jones, who wore No. 27 when he threw his no-hitter against the Pirates on May 12, 1955 at Wrigley Field.
This gives me an opportunity to let you know that Kasey Ignarski (who maintains CubsByTheNumbers.com), Matt Silverman and I are working on a revised and updated edition of the book "Cubs By The Numbers," complete through the 2015 season. It'll be out in the spring.
Perhaps in the years to come, Addison Russell will make No. 27 famous.