Monday, February 16, 2015

Top 10 Uniform Numbers That Should Be Retired

The Yankees have announced that they will retire Andy Pettitte's Number 46 on August 23, the 1st Anniversary of the retirement of Number 6 for Joe Torre. Presumably, he will also get his Monument Park Plaque on that day.

UPDATE: Jorge Posada's Number 20 and Bernie Williams' Number 51 will also be retired. They will also get Plaques. So will Willie Randolph, although his Number 30 will remain in circulation.

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
6 Joe Torre, manager, 1996-2007, August 23, 2014

46 Andy Pettitte, pitcher, on and off 1995-2013, August 23, 2015.
20 Jorge Posada, catcher, 1995-2011, sometime in 2015.
51 Bernie Williams, center field, 1991-2006, sometime in 2015.

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, Paul O'Neill, Allie Reynolds, Tino Martinez and Goose Gossage, without their numbers being retired (11, 15, 21, 22, 24 and 54, respectively); and to George Steinbrenner (Monument), Jacob Ruppert, Ed Barrow, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard, who were nonuniformed personnel. Randolph's Plaque will be added.

There are also Plaques in honor of the Masses delivered at the old Yankee Stadium by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; presumably, Pope Francis will also come to Yankee Stadium on his U.S. visit next year, making it "Four ex-Cardinals with Plaques in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium," as the old joke goes. And there are tributes to the 9/11 victims and rescuers, Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela (who gave a speech before a sellout crowd at The Stadium in 1990).

Removed from circulation, but not yet officially retired, is O'Neill's Number 21. Presumably, the 2 of Derek Jeter will also be retired. The 13 of Alex Rodriguez? As Pete Rose would say, Don't bet on it.

Other uniform numbers retired in major league sports in 2014 or, already, in 2015:

MLB: The Colorado Rockies retired 17 for Todd Helton.

NFL: The Jets officially retired 90 for Dennis Byrd, after merely removing it from circulation since his career-ending injury in 1992; the Pittsburgh Steelers retired 75 for Mean Joe Greene, after keeping it and several others (such as Terry Bradshaw's 12) out of circulation, but only retiring, to that point, Ernie Stautner's 70; the San Diego Chargers retired 55 for the late Junior Seau; the Chicago Bears finally made peace with Mike Ditka and retired his 89; and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retired 55 for Derrick Brooks. The Green Bay Packers have not yet set a date, but have announced that they will retire 4 for Brett Favre.

NBA: The Philadelphia 76ers retired 3 for Allen Iverson; the Sacramento Kings retired 4 for Chris Webber and 16 for Peja Stojakovic; the San Antonio Spurs retired 12 for Bruce Bowen. The Dallas Mavericks have announced that they will retire 12 for Derek Harper.

NHL: The Montreal Canadiens retired 5 for Guy Lapointe; the Detroit Red Wings retired 5 for Nicklas Lidstrom; the Dallas Stars retired 9 for Mike Modano; and the Calgary Flames retired 25 for Joe Nieuwendyk (who helped them, and the Devils, each win a Stanley Cup). Already in 2015, the Los Angeles Kings have retired 4 for Rob Blake, the Buffalo Sabres have retired 39 for Dominik Hasek, and the Anaheim Ducks have retired 8 for Teemu Selanne. Since Martin Brodeur's experiment with the St. Louis Blues has now come to an official end, presumably, the Devils will soon retire his 30.


Top 10 Uniform Numbers that Should Be Retired

Note: The Washington Redskins (33, Sammy Baugh) have retired just one number, but have removed several others from circulation. 
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.

From February 2015, when I first did this list, through January 2018, 3 years, none of the honorees I suggested have been honored.

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 the following: 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 as they have), 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/placekicker, 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 have retired McNabb's 5, and he's 1 of 2 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 number except 6, they haven't retired 1.

Brimsek's predecessor in goal, Clarence "Tiny" Thompson, who helped them win the Cup in 1929, 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, Leonard "Red" Kelly, Detroit Red Wings, defenseman, 1947-60. In 1954, he was awarded the 1st 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 1st 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 all-time starting lineup. The Leafs have made his 4 an Honoured Number, but the Wings haven't given him the equivalent honor. They should, while he's still alive. (He's 87.)

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 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 1 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 in 1960 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 given him 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."

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