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Countdown to Opening Day – 76 days
On September 7, 1989, the number 76 was worn on a Major League Baseball diamond by a player in an official game for what appears to be the first time.
The man who earned the honor, 25-year-old Cleveland Indians catcher Tom Magrann, fouled out to first on the first career MLB pitch he saw in the batter’s box after taking over behind the plate for catcher Andy Allanson during the previous half inning. The Indians, down 11-3 at the time, would lose by a 12-4 final to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Things did not improve substantially from there for the seventh-year pro, who was with his third Major League organization and was making the jump that season from Double-A to the Majors as a September call-up.
Magrann was born in Hollywood, Florida, in 1963. After attending Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, he signed as an amateur free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1982. He spent parts of three seasons at the rookie and A-ball levels for the Phillies before he was given his release. He signed with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1986 season and toiled in their farm system through 1988, working his way up to Triple-A in his last season with the club. His first season in the O’s organization was his best, when he hit .305 with four homers, 14 doubles, and 32 RBI (all career bests) for Class-A Hagerstown. Following the season, he was on the move again.
On November 15, 1988, the Indians acquired the light-hitting minor leaguer in exchange for two fellow minor league players who would never see a day of the Majors. Magrann, however, would play in a career-high 108 games at Double-A Canton-Akron and, in September, got the call and skipped over the Indians’ Triple-A Colorado Springs club to help out the Major League squad for the final stretch of the season.
He appeared in nine games in total, making seven appearances as a defensive replacement before starting the Tribe’s final two games of the season. He was without an error behind the plate, but allowed three wild pitches and opposing base runners picked off eight bases in ten attempts.
At the plate, he was 0-for-10 in the five games that he got a plate appearance. He struck out four times and would never get a second chance to notch a Major League hit.
He spent 1990 with Colorado Springs, hitting .276, but found himself playing for both the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates with each of their Double-A and Triple-A teams in 1991 to wrap up his minor league career.
He surfaced in Belgium in 1992, playing in the nation’s First Division for the Brasschaat Braves and was reported to have hit .605 with 18 home runs in 15 games while winning the Triple Crown in his only season of play there. He joined the team with former Major Leaguer and friend, Joel McKeon. As of January of 2016, he was one of just three former professional players to have played in the First Division.
Magrann is currently the head coach of the baseball program at Coral Springs Charter (Florida) Panthers.
The list of number 76’s in Major League Baseball history grew to at least eight last season, when San Diego Padres reliever Jose Torres donned the number in four appearances in his debut season. Of the seven other players confirmed to have worn the number on the field, none have done so for the Tribe, leaving Magrann with that additional lasting honor.
Photo: 1990 Donruss baseball card via amazon.com