Sunday, October 20, 2013
Top 10 Uniform Numbers That Should Be Retired
Last month, the Yankees retired Mariano Rivera’s Number 42.
Here are the Yankees’ Retired Numbers, as of now:
4 Lou Gehrig, 1st base, 1923-39, number retired on July 4, 1939
3 Babe Ruth, right field, 1920-34, June 13, 1948
5 Joe DiMaggio, center field, 1936-51, April 18, 1952
7 Mickey Mantle, center field, 1951-68, June 8, 1969
37 Casey Stengel, manager, 1949-60, August 8, 1970
8 Bill Dickey, catcher, 1928-46, coach 1949-60, April 18, 1972
8 Yogi Berra, catcher, 1946-63, coach 1975-83, manager 1964 & 1984-85, April 18, 1972
16 Whitey Ford, pitcher, April 6, 1974
15 Thurman Munson, catcher, 1969-79, August 2, 1979
32 Elston Howard, catcher, 1955-67, coach, 1969-80, July 21, 1984
9 Roger Maris, right field, 1960-66, July 21, 1984
10 Phil Rizzuto, shortstop, 1941-56, broadcaster 1957-96, August 4, 1985
1 Billy Martin, 2nd base, 1950-57, manager, on and off 1975-88, August 10, 1986
44 Reggie Jackson, right field, 1977-81, August 14, 1993
23 Don Mattingly, 1st base, 1982-95, August 31, 1997
49 Ron Guidry, pitcher, 1975-88, August 23, 2003
42 Mariano Rivera, pitcher, 1995-2013, September 22, 2013
In addition, Monument Park Plaques have been given to Miller Huggins (Monument) and Joe McCarthy, who never wore a number (even though McCarthy managed in the major leagues until 1950); to Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing and Allie Reynolds, without their numbers being retired (11, 15 and 22, respectively); and to George Steinbrenner (Monument), Jacob Ruppert, Ed Barrow, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard, who were nonuniformed personnel.
Removed from circulation, but not yet officially retired, are the 6 of Joe Torre, the 20 of Jorge Posada, the 21 of Paul O’Neill, and the 51 of Bernie Williams. Presumably, the 2 of Derek Jeter and the 46 of Andy Pettitte will also be retired. The 13 of Alex Rodriguez? At this point, who knows.
Other uniform numbers retired in major league sports in 2013: The Atlanta Braves have retired the 10 of Chipper Jones, the Philadelphia Eagles the 5 of Donovan McNabb, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the 99 of Warren Sapp; in the fall, the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets will retire the 5 of their player, now coach, Jason Kidd; the Colorado Avalanche the 52 of Adam Foote; and, finally, mending fences with their greatest living icon, the Chicago Bears the 89 of Mike Ditka.
Top 10 Uniform Numbers that Should Be Retired
Note: The Pittsburgh Steelers (70, Ernie Stautner) and the Washington Redskins (33, Sammy Baugh) have each retired just one number, but have removed several others from circulation. No Steeler will ever again wear, among others, Terry Bradshaw’s 12 or Mean Joe Greene’s 75; no Redskin will ever again wear, among others, Joe Theismann’s 7 or John Riggins’ 44.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have only 2 retired numbers — Bill Barilko’s 5 and Ace Bailey’s 6 — but they have (Canadian spelling) “Honoured Numbers,” including Tim Horton’s 7, Darryl Sittler’s 27 and Doug Gilmour’s 93.
10. Joint Entry: Several players for the Philadelphia Athletics. Across the Bay, the San Francisco Giants have retired numbers for players from their New York era. The A’s do hang banners for their 5 Philly-era World Championships, but they don’t recognize their retired numbers from there.
They should have: 2, Mickey Cochrane, catcher, 1925-33; 3, Jimmie Foxx, 1st base, 1936-42; 7, Al Simmons, left field, 1924-32 with comebacks in 1940-41 and ’44; 10, Lefty Grove, pitcher, 1925-33; and 32, Eddie Collins, 2nd base, 1906-14 and 1927-30, also coach 1931-32, which is when he wore the number.
Because Connie Mack lost a lot of money in the “Federal League War” of 1914-15, and lost his life savings in the stock market crash of 1929, he had to sell off both the dynasties he built. As a result, all of these guys spent some productive years with other teams: Collins and Simmons with the Chicago White Sox, Cochrane with the Detroit Tigers (where he wore 3, and they should retired it for him and for Alan Trammell, instead of merely removing it from circulation), and Foxx and Grove with the Boston Red Sox. None of them have had their numbers retired with any team, and that, along with the fact that the Philadelphia Athletics no longer exist in their present form, is why, unlike a lot of long-ago legends, they tend to get forgotten.
9. Joint Entry: Several players for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders do not retire numbers. Nor do they have a team hall of fame. They should retire 16 for George Blanda (quarterback, 1967-75), 12 for Ken Stabler (quarterback, 1970-79), 32 for Marcus Allen (running back, 1982-92, which Al Davis would never have done while he was alive even if he did retire numbers, due to their nasty falling-out), and 75 for Howie Long (defensive end, 1981-93). If others should be packed away, don’t tell me, tell them.
8. Joint Entry: Several players for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys don’t retire numbers, either. But they do have a Ring of Honor, which was set up at their new stadium after having been established at Texas Stadium.
Five numbers ought to do it: 74, Bob Lilly, defensive tackle, 1961-74; 12, Roger Staubach, quarterback, 1969-79; 33, Tony Dorsett, running back, 1977-87; 8, Troy Aikman, quarterback, 1989-2000; and 22, Emmitt Smith, running back, 1990-2002.
7. Joint Entry: Two quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles. 11, Norm Van Brocklin (1958-60); and 7, Ron Jaworski (1977-86). The Eagles just retired McNabb’s 5, and he’s one of two quarterbacks to lead them into the Super Bowl. Jaworski is the other. But Van Brocklin is the last quarterback to lead them to a championship, so even though he was only there for 3 years, he should be honored. (Yes, there are players who’ve been with some sports teams for less who’ve had their numbers retired — some, even without dying young.)
6. 1, Frank Brimsek, Boston Bruins, goaltender, 1938-49. In his rookie season, he helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, while posting 10 shutouts, earning him the nickname “Mr. Zero.” He also helped them win the Cup in 1941. He’s in the Hall of Fame. But while the Bruins have retired every other single-digit uniform except 6, they haven’t retired 1.
Brimsek’s predecessor, Clarence “Tiny” Thompson, is also in the Hall of Fame, but 1 hasn’t been retired for him, either.
5. 8, Gary Carter, New York Mets, catcher, 1985-89. Met fans who chose Mike Piazza as the team’s all-time catcher in a 50th Anniversary poll in 2012 forgot 3 things: 1, The greatest catcher in your team’s history has to actually be able to play the position of catcher, and Piazza couldn’t play it worth beans; 2, A Hall of Fame catcher who helped you win a World Series should be ahead of a catcher not in the Hall of Fame who didn’t help you win one; and 3, Carter had just died, so remembrances of him would have been fresh.
Carter was elected to the Hall in 2003, and he lived until just before spring training in 2012, so they had 9 seasons in which to retire his number — 8, if he would have been too ill to attend in 2011. The Montreal Expos retired his 8 (although it was unretired when they became the Washington Nationals), but while the Mets have taken it out of circulation, they haven’t retired it.
4. 4, Red Kelly, Detroit Red Wings, defenseman, 1947-60. In 1954, he was awarded the first Norris Trophy as best defenseman. He helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55.
They traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who converted him to a center, and he helped them win Cups in 1962, ’63, ’64 and ’67. This made him the only man to win as many as 8 Cups without ever having played for the Montreal Canadiens. He then retired, and became the first head coach for the Los Angeles Kings.
If you think Nicklas Lidstrom was the best defenseman in Detroit history, then you at least have to put Kelly alongside him in the starting lineup. The Leafs have made his 4 an Honoured Number, but the Wings haven’t so honored him. They should, while he’s still alive. (He’s 86.)
3. 43, Tris Speaker, Cleveland Indians, center field, 1916-26; manager, 1919-26; coach, 1947-49. Speaker retired before uniform numbers were introduced, but, like the aforementioned Eddie Collins, and like Honus Wagner with the Pittsburgh Pirates (who retired his Number 33), he returned as a coach, to aid Larry Doby in his transition to center field, which he hadn’t played before.
Since he was their greatest player and one of only 2 managers to lead them to a World Championship, he should receive the honor. (Though I have no idea why they gave him 43.)
2. 99, George Mikan, Los Angeles Lakers, center, 1947-54. True, he only played for them in Minneapolis, but the league never would have lasted long enough for them to move to Los Angeles if Mikan hadn’t been the face of the league from 1948 to 1954.
The Lakers have a banner honoring Mikan and their other Minneapolis-era Hall-of-Famers, but that’s not the same thing.
1. 6, Hector “Toe” Blake, Montreal Canadiens, left wing 1935-48, head coach 1955-68. He won a Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1939, and the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1944 and ’46.
But his true contribution was as head coach, winning 8 Cups, including 5 in a row: 1956, ’57, ’58, ’59, ’60, ’65, ’66 and ’68. Until Scotty Bowman came along, he was the greatest coach in NHL history. Yet, for all their retired numbers, the Habs have never honored him with the honor.
If you’re wondering why a hockey player was nicknamed “Toe,” it’s because, when he was a boy, his baby sister couldn’t pronounce “Hector,” and it came out “Hec-toe.”