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Retired Numbers and The Yankees

Dec 11, 2013, 5:47 PM EDT

Billy Martin

You may have heard … it looks like the New York Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s number. That is absolutely the right thing to do — heck Billy Martin’s number is retired — and it brings us just a little big closer to one of the cooler number things in sports: Very soon the first 10 numbers will be retired by the New York Yankees.

In case you have forgotten the list:

No. 1: Billy Martin. Number was retired in 1986 more out of emotion, I think, than anything else. Ralph Houk won a World Series as manager and his number isn’t retired. But it’s also true that no player or manager ever wore the Yankees pinstripes more proudly. Martin was a Yankees World Series hero as a player, and he led the Yankees to a pennant and a World Series championship as a manager, in addition to being fired 800 million times.

No. 2: Derek Jeter. Will be retired 12 minutes after he retires.

No. 3: Babe Ruth. Baseball’s all-time No. 3 hitter. Baseball’s all-time everything, really. Retired June, 13, 1948. The famous picture of Babe Ruth leaning on his bat comes from that day. You probably know this, but Ruth gave the bat to Bob Feller, and it is on display at the Bob Feller Museum in Iowa.

No. 4: Lou Gehrig. Retired July 4, 1939, the day he announced that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

No. 5: Joe DiMaggio. Retired April 18, 1952. I really think they should have retired it in 1956.

No. 6: Here’s Joe Torre’s number, squeezed beautifully between DiMag and the Mick. It’s almost as if they KNEW he would become an all-time great manager and have his number retired.

No. 7: George Costanza’s future child. And Mickey Mantle. Retired June 8, 1969.

No. 8: Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. This was an interesting one. The Yankees did not retire Dickey’s number when he retired in 1946. Instead, two years later, they gave it to a young catcher named Yogi (up to that point, Berra had worn No. 38 and No. 35). So, two of the greatest catchers in baseball history wore No. 8 for the Yankees. In 1972, the Yankees decided to retire the number for Yogi, but they couldn’t leave out Dickey. So they retired the number in both names.

No. 9: Roger Maris. He was sick and would die eighteen months after having his number retired in 1984. But he was at the stadium on Old Timer’s Day wearing No. 9.

No. 10: Phil Rizzuto in 1985. Scooter, as a player, announcer and icon you could argue convincingly that Rizzuto and Yogi are the two most beloved figures in Yankees history.

The Yankees actually have retired eight more numbers: No. 15 (Thurman Munson); No. 16 (Whitey Ford); No. 23 (Donnie Baseball); No. 32 (Elston Howard); No. 37 (Casey Stengel); No. 42 (The Great Rivera); No. 44 (The Straw That Stirred the Drink) and No. 49 (Ron Guidry).

But it is filling up those first 10 numbers that is really cool. There’s really nothing else quite like that in sports.

  1. xdj511 - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    That list threw me for moment, #44 is retired for the straw that stirs the drink, Reggie Jackson, not Darryl Strawberry, lol

    • mikhelb - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      The strawman used number 26 and number 39 (the same number used by Roberto Kelly, the player traded to acquire Paul O’Neill, one of the icons of the Yanks in the mid 1990s).

  2. godsmacked1 - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    The real travesty is they haven’t retired Mickey Rivers/Oscar Gamble’s number 17 yet.

    • bigharold - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      Some people just don’t appreciate a good joke.

    • scyankee64 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      They should retire Oscar’s afro.

    • mikhelb - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      Or Paulie’s #21 and Bernie’s #51.

    • tonyz6060chevy - Dec 12, 2013 at 7:16 AM

      They need to retire Willie Randoph’s number !

  3. johnnysoda - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    I find #1 & #9 to be dubious retirements. Martin was an average player at best, and only won one World Series as a manager. Maris may have had the 61 home runs, but he was in no way a HOFer. Not to mention they waited until 18 years after he left the team before they retired it.

    #10 is borderline, but Rizzuto is in the HOF, plus he broadcasted them for so long.

    • cackalackyank - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Martin is retired as much because of his persona as his actual play, or managing. Not that its a good persona to a lot of people but it is a factor. Maris is/was the season HR record holder at the time. Its ironic because the 61 HR record held an asterisk because it was a longer season for Maris than for Ruth’s 60 HR season record. Now many people would put an asterisk in front of Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds #’s because of PED use.

    • mikhelb - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      If you were alive back when he was a manager you might know why, if you are relatively young so as to remember Billy: he was pretty much an icon with his constant fights and yelling at umpires in addition to being a very good manager, and he chatted with umpires kinda like Earl Weaver and sweet Lou’s approached them.

      • mrgjg - Dec 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM

        Exactly right. Battling Billy was the underdog that the average Joe related to. I’ll never forget the 1978 old timers game right after he was fired when because of public pressure, he was introduced as future Yankee manager Billy Martin. The ovation was literally 10 minutes long.

  4. nctaxpro - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    There was a firestorm a few years ago when the Yankees reissued #21 (Paul O’Neill); they had to backtrack and haven’t given out either #21 or #51 (Bernie Williams). I would expect they’ll officially retire #51 and probably Posada’s #20 at some point as well.

    • Mr. Furious - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      On the flip side, I remember them not waiting very long at all to reissue Pettitte’s #46 after he left for the Astros. I was a little surprised by that.

    • cackalackyank - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      It will be interesting to see how fast someone gets #24.

      • mikhelb - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        They didn’t wait a lot to give up #24 after the departure of Tino, a guy who was as productive (or more) as Canó (and in less years played also).

      • Kevin S. - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM

        C’mon. I loved Tino as much as anybody else who grew up with the late-90s Yankees, but in seven years he hit .276/.347/.484 in a much higher run environment than Cano put up his .309/.355/.504 line in, while playing an easier position. Robinson Cano’s had the better half of what looks like a HOF career (if he doesn’t go off a cliff) with the Yankees. Tino’s nice run doesn’t match up with that.

      • mgflolox - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:25 AM

        Rickey Henderson is still the best player to ever wear #24 for the Yankees.

      • cackalackyank - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        Good point. Rickey is in the HOF so one could make a case for retiring #24 for him.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      Poor LaTroy Hawkins. He deserved better. Basically run right out of town for wearing #21. Even O’Neil thought the fans went overboard.

    • joecsports - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      Why do the Yankees have to retire every number of every decent player? A lot of them were and would have been just better than average players on other teams. I like Paul O’Neill, but you can’t retire his number. The Yankees should do what the Toronto Maple Leafs do. You retire the players jersey and hang it from the rafters and then let current players wear the number. I would be reminded of Mickey Mantle all the time, if someone wore his number. 7 Are they going to start issuing three digit numbers–”Now batting number for the Yankees, number 246 Tom Smith….The criteria should be a HOF or near HOF. They glorify individuals in Yankeeland way too much. Wait..there is another tribute for part-time player Mariano on the YES network..

  5. misterscmo - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I have always thought that teams should issue the “retired” numbers to current players as a special incentive. As players progress from prospects with numbers in the high sixties to bona fide stars ( Trout, Stanton, Goldschmidt ), getting to wear numbers of the Great Ones would be a cool privilege as well as keeping the Legends integrated in the modern game.

    • mybrunoblog - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      Interesting idea. Maybe someday the Yankees do that. Remember, they gave out number 3 after Ruth retired. They didn’t retire #3 until years later. Be interesting to see them allow certain players to wear retired numbers. It would be cool only if was rare and the right type of guy got the number. Assuming they retire 2, 20, 21, 46 and 51 we will soon see guys regularly wearing numbers in the 60s and 70s.

      • cackalackyank - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:46 PM

        I am really drawing a blank….who would 20 be retired for?

      • mybrunoblog - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        20 was Jorge Posada.

      • cackalackyank - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:26 PM

        I like Jorge, and the “core four” is a special group to be sure. However, I just do not see Jorge in the same light that I see Mo, Jeter, and Pettitte. I’m sure that I will draw thumbs down here, but I do not really see 21 for O’neill and 51 for Williams either. If you retire those then you should retire 29 for Catfish Hunter, 19 for Dave Righetti, 48 for Don Larsen, 36 for David Cone, and 33 for David Wells, and probably 28 for Sparky Lyle and 54 for Rich Gossage. Hunter and Gossage are Hall of Famers and contributed to two World Championships, Lyle was a stalwart out of the pen on the late ’70s teams, the others all have No Hitters/Perfect games in Pinstripes. There are just so many guys that made the Yankees what they are that you truly could retire just about every number up to @ 56 if you really looked hard enough. Somewhere you have to draw a line though.

      • mrgjg - Dec 17, 2013 at 11:56 PM

        I think Bernie , as a Yankee is above any of those guys. He played his whole career here and he was a class act. His number should be retired.

    • kevinbnyc - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Kind of like what Michigan’s football team did this year with the “Legend” numbers for their star players. Would have been kind of cool to have a ceremony where they gave Jeter #10 after he’d shown how good he was going to be.

  6. blynch67 - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Not talking sh@t, but I’d be curious to know if any another team could do better than 5 of the first 10 being retired.

    Maybe the Dodgers?… Red Sox? It would have to be one of the older teams. I guess in the old days teams used to make more use of those lower numbers…

    Maybe a better question is ‘which team has the most retired numbers?’ I would think it would be the Yankees, but I have no real idea.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/major-league-baseball-retired-uniforms.shtml

      Yes, it’s the Yankees. Cardinals second, Reds and Braves tied for third (I’m not counting the non-numbered honorees). Braves threw me for a loop because I’m used to seeing the half-dozen numbers they had out in left, but Bobby, Chipper and the big three obviously all just went up recently.

    • umrguy42 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Well, the Cardinals have exactly 5, although Yadi Molina’s 4 seems a likely candidate for the future. (Pujols’ 5 is kind of a tossup at this point). Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a good article on the Cards’ situation today: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/cardinal-beat/goold-the-inexact-science-of-retiring-numbers/article_ac5733ce-3d2f-5b6d-8536-d718712e1f0e.html

    • petey1999 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:11 PM

      Red Sox are the anti-Yankees w/r/t this as they apparently have a rule that the player 1) must be in the HOF AND 2) must finish their career with the team. They have finessed 2) with the one day contract as in Pudge’s case, but this obviously seriously limits the retired numbers.

  7. bigjimatch - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    Paul O’Neil? Reggie Jackson is bad enough. who is next, Tino Martinez? Raul Mondesi?

  8. bigdaddystyle - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    As a Yankee fan, I hate that Reggie, Martin and Maris had their #’s retired. George Steinbrenner made it something easy to attain. It should be an honor for Hall of Fame level LONG TIME players.He got all gooey with sentiment when he wasn’t firing people and messing up the roster.

    But nothing is more insulting that the size of the Monument for Steinbrenner in the Stadium. It’s ridiculous and shouldn’t the monstrosity that is out there now. Have some respect for those who came before you. They made that thing tower over the true greats of the team.

    • anxovies - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:23 PM

      Some think it a greater honor to be in Monument Park than the Hall of Fame.

  9. proudlycanadian - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    At this rate, the Yankees will soon have to issue numbers above 100.

    • sdelmonte - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      And fractions, negative numbers, and imaginary numbers.

      “Now batting, number i, Derek Jeter Jr.”

      • mikhelb - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:10 PM

        Roman numerals will be soon issued.

      • KR - Dec 12, 2013 at 6:47 AM

        In the Latin alphabet, “Jeter” begins with an I!

  10. Minoring In Baseball - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    I don’t think a player has to be in the HOF to have his number retired. It should all be about what those players meant to that team. In Detroit, Lou Whitaker and Allan Trammel probably won’t be inducted, but I still believe that the Tigers should honor them and all they did for the franchise. Retired numbers should be special, but to that team (with the exception of Jackie Robinson, for what he means to all of baseball).
    http://minoringinbaseball.com/

  11. bigzant82 - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    matsui’s 55 will be retired asap

  12. ksl1954 - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Retiring numbers is ridiculous and it needs to stop. I’ve been a baseball fan and a Yankee fan all my life and still feel this way. Quit retiring numbers – honor the players if you want but allow future generations to wear some great numbers.

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