Lucky Number Seven(teen)


The other day I was reading ESPN's Jayson Stark's review of the strange happenings in the 2007 baseball season when I came across this nugget.

"Billy Wagner collected his 17th save of the year in the 17th inning of a July 7 Mets-Astros game -- an inning that took him (what else?) 17 pitches."

I was immediately interested in that fact because 17 is my lucky number. Besides being my birth date reversed (7/1 becomes 17), it was also my cubby number in third grade, my favorite birthday and the jersey number of some of my favorite athletes (Anderson Varejao, Braylon Edwards, Lance Berkman and Cristiano Rinaldo).

But 17 isn't just my lucky number. Princeton mathematician Edward Feller also had a fondness for the number, selecting only 17 students each year to advise and always choosing it as his "random" integer when solving problems. According to a variety of studies, it's also the "most random number"; if you ask a group of people to choose a number between 1 and 20, you'll get an excess of people choosing 17. Knowing my adoration for the number, a friend turned me on to this site from a French professor who tracked occurrences of the number seventeen. From that site and some others, here are some interesting tidbits.

  • The word or numeral "seventeen" is used 17 times in the Bible.
  • The working title of The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" was "Seventeen."
  • There are 17 muscles in the human tongue.
  • Carl Lewis won 17 gold medals: nine at the Olympic games and eight at world championships.
  • The Japanese haiku contains 17 syllables.
  • The period of revolution of the moon Callisto, which Galileo discovered in the 17th century, around Jupiter is 17 days.
  • In the film An American in Paris, Gene Kelly dances for 17 minutes.
  • No odd Fibonacci number is divisible by 17.
  • 17 hostages were killed during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.
  • In the film The Great Escape, Danny (Charles Bronson) is digging his 17th tunnel.