It started, as it so often innocently does, with a tweet. In this case, it came a few days ago from a Braves fan and follower of the VORG:
I was up for the challenge, and it was a pretty steep one. It turns out there have been *only* 53 players with a surname beginning with U in MLB history. Furthermore, plotting them on a timeline and checking the rosters of each player year-by-year, I found that the most that were active in the Majors at any one time was six. Could three of them have ended up on the same team in the same season?
It turns out that it has happened only once, and certainly not a full-season instance as the 2013 version of the Braves will now present on a daily basis. In 1927, the Cleveland Indians started the season with George Uhle in the rotation. He bounced in and out of a starter’s role the rest of the year. In September, they called up 3B George Ussat and reliever Willie Underhill. Thus, we had our first and only 3-U roster. (There have been 11 other instances of two “U”s on a club’s roster in a given year, as you can see in the Excel timeline below).
As a service to those of you who might not be familiar with the few, the “U”, the VORG presents the following factoids on each of the 53 “U” players:
Lon Ury: For reasons unknown, was given the nickname “Old Sleep”.
Bob Unglaub: During the off-seasons Unglaub put his engineering degree to use by working with the Pennsylvania Railroad shops in his hometown of Baltimore. On November 29, 1916, “While superintending repair work on a locomotive an accident occurred which crushed and mangled him so that all efforts to save his life failed.”
Bill Upham: He was a switch-hitting pitcher . . . you don’t see those too often anymore.
George Uhle: “Babe Ruth faced off against Uhle more than any other pitcher, with 110 at-bats. Of Ruth’s 714 career home runs, he got only four off Uhle. Uhle had the second most strikeouts of Ruth by a pitcher, with 25. Only Lefty Grove had more, 27. Although Ruth batted .336 against Uhle, he credited George with being the toughest pitcher he ever faced.”
Woody Upchurch: Started first game of DH on 5/23/36 against Yankees and got knocked out in 1.1 innings. Then relieved in second game, and again the next day. In those last two appearances yielded a total of six homers (three to Frankie Crosetti) in six innings. His team lost those two games 15-1 and 25-2.
Al Unser: Father of veteran OF/1B Del Unser.
Sandy Ullrich: Born in Cuba, he got a chance to play in the Majors during WWII when many established players were in service. After the war ended, so did Ullrich’s big league career.
Mike Ulicny: Ulicny wasn’t born in Cuba, but he too got his chance in the Majors thanks to WWII. He appeared in 11 games in 1945, then went back to being a career minor leaguer.
Bob Usher: Served in the Armed Forces in 1944 and 1945, then made the Majors in 1946.
Tom Upton: Older of the first set of Uptons, along with brother Bill, to play in the Majors.
Bill Upton: The younger brother of the other Upton, Tom.
Jack Urban: The Yankees’ PTBNL in one of the largest trades in baseball history. On April 5, 1957, the New York Yankees sent Urban to the Kansas City Athletics to complete an earlier deal in which they sent Rip Coleman, Milt Graff, Billy Hunter, Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan and Irv Noren to the Kansas City Athletics for players to be named later, Wayne Belardi, Art Ditmar, Jack McMahan and Bobby Shantz.
John Upham: Appeared as a pitcher, pinch-hitter AND outfielder at various points in his brief stay in the Majors.
Del Unser: Finished a distant second to Stan Bahnsen in the 1968 AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Was a terrific pinch-hitter for the World Champion Phillies of 1980. Teammate of Tom Underwood in 1974.
Tom Underwood: Brother of Pat Underwood. On May 31, 1979, Pat made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers, pitching against Tom and the Toronto Blue Jays. 1978 teammate of Willie Upshaw, as well as 1977 teammate of John Urrea.
John Urrea: On December 8, 1980, he was part of one of the largest trades of the last 35 years. He was dealt by the St. Louis Cardinals with Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Mike Phillips, Kim Seaman and Steve Swisher to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later, Rollie Fingers, Bob Shirley and Gene Tenace. The San Diego Padres sent Bob Geren (December 10, 1980) to the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade.
Willie Upshaw: According to Wikipedia, Upshaw is currently Major League Baseball’s career leader in home runs(123) and RBIs (528) for players whose surname begins with the letter U. (Post-script . . . Wikipedia is dead wrong . . . @todddowneytx pointed out that Dan Uggla already has six seasons with at least 27 homers. Uggla’s 209 homers and Chase Utley’s 739 RBI are the “U” leaders.) So here’s a replacement factoid for you: Upshaw’s 21 errors at 1B in 1983 have only been exceeded once since, by Kevin Young (23) in 1999.
Pat Underwood: Teammate of Jerry Ujdur in 1980, 1982 and 1983.
Scott Ullger: A cup of coffee at age 28 with the Twins in 1983. Finally retired from pro ball at age 32 after ten years in the minors.
Tom Urbani: Urbani ended his career in 1999 pitching for the Rimini Pirates in Italy as an Italian-American (oriundo) player. He led the team to a Championship Series win against Nettuno. During that season he threw the fifth perfect game in the history of the Italian baseball league.
Ugueth Urbina: 2004 teammate of Lino Urdaneta and 2005 teammate of Chase Utley. He’s likely to be attempting a comeback in 2013, after spending the last few years in a Venezuelan jail for attempted murder.
Juan Uribe: A critical member of two World Series winners that broke long championship dry spells: the 2005 White Sox and 2010 Giants.
Lino Urdaneta: Faced 11 batters in the Majors, allowed seven hits and walked one.
Dan Uggla: Players with 27 or more homers in each of his first six seasons: DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Pujols and . . . Dan Uggla! (Uggla didn’t reach 27 in 2012).
Justin Upton: The #1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. He has the 7th-highest WAR through 2012 of anyone taken in that round (Braun, Tulowitzki, McCutchen, Zimmerman, Alex Gordon and Ellsbury have more).