Dan's Dugout: Retired Numbers Honor Overlooked Players • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Retired Numbers Honor Overlooked Players


Next to enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the greatest honor a ballplayer can receive is the retirement of his uniform number.

Only 150 have received such an honor — less than half the number who have plaques in Cooperstown.

Nolan Ryan has had his number retired three times

Nolan Ryan has had his number retired three times

Several players have been honored multiple times, with Nolan Ryan the clear champion at three (34 by the Astros and Angels and 30 by the Rangers).

Beyond Jackie Robinson, whose 42 has been retired by all clubs, other players with multiple honors include Hank Aaron (44 by the Braves and Brewers), Frank Robinson (20 by the Reds and Orioles), Rollie Fingers (34 by the Athletics and Brewers), Greg Maddux (31 by the Braves and Cubs), and Rod Carew (29 by the Twins and Angels).

After wearing No. 27 for the Red Sox, Carlton Fisk reversed the digits when he changed the color of his sox to white. Both Boston and Chicago have retired the jerseys he wore for them.

And let’s not forget Reggie Jackson, whose No. 9 was retired by the A’s and No. 44 by the Yankees.

Reggie Jackson's number has been retired by the A's and Yankees

Reggie Jackson’s number has been retired by the A’s and Yankees

Wade Boggs, like Jackson a Hall of Famer, has also had his number retired twice — though historians bristle that the long-time Boston star, who wore No. 26 for the Red Sox, also had his No. 12 retired by the Tampa Bay Rays, where his stay was short and unremarkable.

Then again, the Rays are quirky when it comes to retiring numbers. They’ll also hung up No. 66 in honor of Don Zimmer, whose stay in Tampa was even less distinguished. And who would want such a high number anyway?

Speaking of ridiculous retirements, how about No. 455? The Cleveland Indians created that jersey to represent their 455 consecutive sellouts at Jacobs Field.

No one will ever wear No. 85 for the St. Louis Cardinals — it’s been retired for the late owner August A. (Gussie) Busch, who was 85 years old at the time of the ceremony.

Purists will say that the only team with no retired numbers is the Miami Marlins. But look more carefully: the team retired No. 5, the number worn by their late owner Carl Bargar when he worked out with the team during spring training.

Some names and numbers are notorious for their exclusion from the retired number rolls.

Ken Griffey, Jr. is the only Mariner whose number was retired

Ken Griffey, Jr. is the only Mariner whose number was retired

The Seattle Mariners, for example, have retired the No. 24 worn by Ken Griffey, Jr. but failed to honor either Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez, not to mention Edgar Martinez. All three were legends in Seattle.

Honus Wagner, a member of the five-man class that was the first elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936, is honored by the Pittsburgh Pirates with a number he never wore. The team wore no numbers when Wagner played shortstop for them but he later returned as a coach, wearing No. 33. That is the number retired in his honor by the Bucs.

Sluggers Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx, both of whom won MVP awards in the same season while playing in the same city, have no numerals retired for them. Klein, who wore many different numbers during his career, is listed as a numberless honoree by the Phillies, while Foxx is somehow overlooked by both the A’s and the Red Sox, for whom he was a significant contributor.

Nine men, including Klein, have retired numbers that are “ghosts” — honored in their home ballparks with other digits retired by those teams. Christy Mathewson and John McGraw were giants of the Giants and have their names highlighted in huge circles next to numbers belonging to Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Orlando Cepeda.

Think that’s a lot of numbers? Check out the Yankee list, with 22 numbers already retired and no single

Retired numbers at Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Credit: Bill Menzel

Retired numbers at Monument Park in Yankee Stadium.
Credit: Bill Menzel

digits left for the taking. Pretty soon, the Bronx Bombers may have to resort to triple digits.

The Yankees retired No. 8 twice — it was worn by Yogi Berra after Bill Dickey — but could have done the same with No. 9, which was worn by Graig Nettles after Roger Maris.

Nettles, one of the keys to the club’s resurgence under George Steinbrenner, is not honored by club. But neither are Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy, Yankee managers who made the Hall of Fame but not the number list. Go figure.

Like the Yankees, the Chicago Cubs retired No. 31 twice — once for Fergie Jenkins and then for Greg Maddux. Both are righthanded bellwethers who pitched their way into Cooperstown.

The strangest retired number, and the most controversial, is the No. 1 hung up by the Milwaukee Brewers to honor retired Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig. A Milwaukee native who was instrumental in securing the Seattle Pilots franchise after a year and renaming them the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig never played an inning of professional baseball.

Tim Raines had his number retired by the Montreal Expos.

Tim Raines had his number retired by the Montreal Expos.

Only the Washington Nationals have no retired numbers. During its origin as the Montreal Expos, numbers were retired for Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Rusty Staub. But the Nats, seeking to create their own identity, did not inherit or display those numerals.

Number retirement ceremonies are guaranteed to pack the park. Famous alumni show up to salute the honorees, speeches are made, scoreboard videos are shown, and bobbleheads are given to fans as souvenirs.

It’s a time-honored baseball tradition that fans love.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Say what? Last-place Atlanta is second in the majors in on-base percentage since the All-Star Game . . .

Who is Jedd Gyorko and why is he hitting all those home runs for the Cardinals? . . .

Pity the Phillies, who rank last in the majors in runs, extra-base hits, and on-base percentage . . .

The Mets had their mitts on Carlos Gomez, who got off to a great start after landing in Texas . . .

Michael Bourn, now with Baltimore, also had a rebirth this year and could wind up facing Bourn in the playoffs . . .

The return of Clayton Kershaw, the lefty with three Cy Youngs on his resume, makes the Los Angeles

Clayton Kershaw may be the top current player

Clayton Kershaw may be the top current player

Dodgers odds-on favorites in the tussle for the title of the National League West . . .

David (Big Papi) Ortiz is the oldest player ever to hit 30 homers in a season . . .

Who would have thought that Bartolo Colon would become the most reliable pitcher on the Mets? . . .

With Chris Archer (Rays) a lock to lose 20 games, it’s worth remembering that Hall of Famer Phil Niekro once posted a 21-20 campaign — leading the National League in wins and losses in the same season . . .

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully became a Giants fan at age 8 when he took pity on a New York Giants team getting crushed by the Yankees in the 1936 World Series . . .

Washington slugger Bryce Harper does a Scully imitation that is a bit short of perfection . . .

With Ivan Nova pitching so well for Pittsburgh, Yankee fans must be wondering how he got away . . .

Back surgery ended a brilliant season by Neil Walker, the slugging Mets second baseman likely to earn a huge deal in free agency this fall . . .

Lefty Jon Lester has been a big help to the Cubs

Lefty Jon Lester has been a big help to the Cubs

Cubs lefty Jon Lester has quietly sneaked into the Cy Young conversation in the National League . . .

The St. Louis Cardinals got a big boost in their wild-card bid with the return of muscular first baseman Matt Adams . . .

The Yankees wasted no time in finding a Dellin Betances clone in Jonathan Holder, a 23-year-old righthander who fanned 101 in 65 1/3 minor-league innings this season . . .

The streaking 2016 Cubs matched their 1932 club record with a 22-6 mark in August . . .

Cleveland acquired a cereal killer in Coco Crisp . . .

Like Chipper Jones, David Wright named his kid “Shea” after the old ballpark (Olivia Shea Wright) . . .

Every time Giancarlo Stanton gets hurt, the Fish falter (10-18 in August, fewest runs scored in the NL) . . .

Future Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, who missed the season after right shoulder surgery, will play his way back into shape with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League . . .

If Washington acquires back-up catcher A.J. Pierzynski from Atlanta, it could field a battery of (Marc) Rzepczynski and Pierzynski. Where is Ralph Kiner when we really need him?

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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