Taijuan Walker is now officially a Phillie. Perhaps more importantly, he has chosen a uniform number.
The Phillies have made the Taijuan Walker signing official. He will wear No. 99. They’ll hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today.— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) December 16, 2022
Walker previously wore number 99 with the Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Mets, and I have to say that it’s a bold choice. It’s a uniform number most commonly associated with stars like Wayne Gretzky and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and when you put it on your back, you call a little bit of extra attention to yourself. Not every player is capable of handling that kind of spotlight.
However, Walker will not be the first player to wear number 99 in a Phillies uniform. Let’s take a look back at those who have come before him.
The most famous player to wear 99 for the Phillies is relief pitcher Mitch Williams. Considering he was nicknamed Wild Thing after the movie character, it only made sense for him to take the same uniform number. Interestingly, he wore the number 28 in 1991 when he finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting.
Williams was responsible for two of the most memorable moments in Phillies history: Striking out Bill Pecota to end the 1993 NLCS and getting a game-winning hit at 4:40 AM.
Here’s the original tv broadcast.— John Foley (@2008Philz) July 3, 2020
Mitch Williams afterwards: “I do some of my best work at 4:30 in the morning.” pic.twitter.com/gKMj3GR5oY
He was also unfortunately responsible for perhaps the worst moment in Phillies history (I don’t think I need to specify) which is why he became an ex-Phillie the following season.
Turk Wendell gained notoriety early on his career for his superstitious antics such as eating licorice and brushing his teeth between innings.
3.2.21 card of the day: 1992 Upper Deck Turk Wendell— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) March 2, 2021
one of Wendell’s “quirks” was brushing his teeth between innings because of all the black licorice he would eat. LOVE that Upper Deck used that image on this card pic.twitter.com/Ir1oybnK36
In 2001, he gained notoriety with Phillies fans for being really bad. Ed Wade’s fatal flaw as a general manager was that he was really bad at making in-season trades for relief pitchers. In 2001, he tried to shore up his bullpen by trading Bruce Chen to the Mets in exchange for Wendell. (They also got the similarly disappointing Dennis Cook in that deal, but since he didn’t wear 99, I won’t discuss him further.)
If trying to resurrect complete failures from 2001 is what Vince McMahon wants, maybe he can start with that Turk Wendell/Dennis Cook trade that Ed Wade made— Franzke & LA (@FranzkeLA) January 25, 2018
In his first appearance for the team, Wendell faced his former team, and gave up a game winning home run. In his second appearance, he allowed three runs without recording an out. The rest of the season went about as well before ending prematurely due to an injury that would cause him to miss the entire 2002 season.
As it turns out, Wendell preferred the number 13 - presumably that whole superstition thing again - and only took 99 because 13 was unavailable with the Mets. After 2001, he switched to 13, and did come back to have a solid first half of the season with the Phillies in 2003, before faltering in the second half. At that point, he was a free agent, and the Phillies seemed happy to let him pitch (poorly) elsewhere.
It seems Wendell actually feels a sense of kinship with Walker as fellow members of the “99 club.” No offense, Turk, but I prefer if Walker didn’t follow in your footsteps here.
The most recent player to wear 99 was So Taguchi, who is probably the last player you’ll think of when trying to name the 2008 Phillies roster.
Taguchi spent the early part of his career putting up mediocre stats in the Japanese league. He came to America in 2002 and proceeded to put up mediocre stats for the Cardinals. The Phillies signed him as a reserve before the 2008 season. I don’t recall him doing all that much, but he did have a clutch double one time.
Phillies flashback- 7-22-08- It was Joe Blanton's Phillies debut and they trailed 5-2 heading into the top of the 9th. You know that the fightins weren't about to take an L on this one. Enter heroes So Taguchi and J Roll pic.twitter.com/XEOLdE0Qs6— 2009 /2010 Phillies & 2006/2018 eagles (@2009philieseag1) July 22, 2022
Taguchi won the World Series twice in his eight Major League seasons, so maybe the guy was just good luck? After all, the Phillies haven’t won the World Series since he left.
Now that I think about it, the Phillies have had three seasons in which a player wore 99, and they made the World Series in two of them. And the third season they only had a 99 for less than half of the year, so that doesn’t even count. Because correlation always equals causation, I’d say it’s safe to say that by taking number 99, Walker has ensured that the Phillies will repeat as National League champs in 2023!
I take back what I said before. Taijuan Walker was the best signing the Phillies could have made this year!