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July 1, 2011


Numbers That Should Be Retired

by Larry Granillo

Last Sunday, the Detroit Tigers retired Sparky Anderson's #11 in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks and forty-thousand Tigers fans. Sparky, as you may remember, died last November at the age of 76. In his 17 years with the Tigers, Sparky won over 1,300 games and captured one World Series title. He also won Manager of the Year twice for the club. Two members of the Diamondbacks coaching staff - Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell - were key cogs in Anderson's best teams, so it's good that they could be in attendance for the ceremony.

But it raises a good question: why haven't the Tigers retired Trammell's #3 jersey? My guess is that they are waiting for Trammell to get elected to the Hall of Fame. He is easily one of the best shortstops of the last fifty years, if not more, and it's always nice to have a Hall of Fame number retiring ceremony at your home ballpark. But, the way things are going, it's very unlikely that Trammell will get voted into the Hall by the writers. In his tenth year of eligibility, Trammell only earned 24.3% of the vote. It will take an upsurge of epic proportions for Trammell to be inducted into Cooperstown in the next five years. What happens then? Will the Tigers retire his number? How long will they wait? By the time he falls off the ballot, Trammell will have been retired twenty years. That'd be like the Brewers finally getting around to retiring Robin Yount's number in 2013.

It got me wondering. What other players are out there whose number should be retired but isn't? I'm thinking more along the lines of players who have been out of the game for 10 or more years, but I suppose it couldn't hurt to list some of the more recently retired players too. It's not uncommon to see teams wait five or so years to retire a number, but it's certainly not the rule. Yount, for example, had his number retired in May 1994 despite retiring at the end of the 1993 season. I'm skipping some obvious names (like Ken Griffey, Jr.) just so this doesn't turn into a list of soon-to-be Hall of Famers.

Below are some of the names that immediately come to mind when I think of players who should have their numbers retired by their clubs. Who am I missing? Can we come up with somebody from all 30 teams (recent expansion teams excluded perhaps)?

San Francisco Giants - Barry Bonds, Will Clark
When do the Giants give Bonds his honor? Will they wait for that contentious 2013 Hall of Fame ballot? If they're worried about a backlash, is it an understandable concern? My guess is that they honor him at the end of the 2012 season, before any potential shame from a steroids-tainted Hall of Fame election shows up. I don't understand why the Giants don't seem to care about Clark, though. He has a legitimate Hall of Fame case and was a huge star for the team, but they let players like Eli Whiteside wear his #22 now.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Fernando Valenzuela
To be honest, Fernando is always the first name that pops into my head when I think about this. It probably has something to do with growing up in the Los Angeles-area in the early-1980s. Still, considering the talent that Fernando had and the cultural impact he made (he's still the Spanish-language color commentator), it feels like he belongs on that wall. I've heard that his number is "unofficially" retired. When will it become official? I'd hate to see them do it too late.

Detroit Tigers - Alan Trammell
Well, obviously, since I mentioned him above. Lou Whitaker probably has a case, too (and I wouldn't be surprised if the club was planning on retiring their numbers together).

Boston Red Sox - Wade Boggs
I know there are some "rules" that the Red Sox claim to have for retiring numbers, but I don't buy it. There's no legitimate reason that Wade Boggs shouldn't have his number along side Yaz and Williams (and above some other, unnamed numbers). The club must really dislike that Yankee Stadium victory lap.

Cincinnati Reds - Pete Rose
I'm not going to fight for this one, but I found it pretty odd not to see that Rose's number wasn't retired. He was an active manager awaiting Hall of Fame election when he was banned from baseball. His number wasn't yet retired then and I imagine the Reds felt it was difficult to retire it in the meantime. That number belongs alongside the rest of the Big Red Machine, though.

Oakland Athletics/St. Louis Cardinals - Mark McGwire
Again, I find this one tough. As much as many of us remember McGwire as an A, the bulk of his accomplishments came in St. Louis. Were they enough? Well, they haven't been enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame, but that's more steroids-related than anything. If the steroids story wasn't uncovered until 2010 or 2015, McGwire would be in the Hall and both the A's and Cardinals would have his number hanging on their wall.

Cleveland Indians - Kenny Lofton
I won't go into it here because it could be many paragraphs, but let's just say that I agree with just about every article written that says Lofton belongs in the Hall of Fame. The Indians retiring his number is just a logical expansion of that. He was a huge part of those Jacobs Field winners and was the smiling face of that franchise more than anyone else. I really hope Indians fans realize how great of a player they had.

New York Mets - Keith Hernandez
One of the best defensive first basemen ever, a key to the Mets' World Series winner, a star of Seinfeld and hair commercials, and a man with a legitimate Hall of Fame case. How have the Mets not retired his number yet? It must be that he spent only seven years with the team. I suppose I can understand that, but I always come back to the question: if this player had a tragic accident tomorrow, would we shake our head and say "It's a shame his team never retired his number"? With Hernandez, I feel like we would.

That's my list for now. I know for a fact that I'm missing a few players here and there (Bobby Grich? John Olerud? Edgar Martinez?). Please let me know who they are. And remember, if you would find yourself wondering how in the world the player's team ignored him if you found out tomorrow that something tragic had happened, he should be included.

I'm curious to see who you come up with.

Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Retire,  The Who

39 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Sammy Sosa is one. His career with the Cubs ended on such bad terms that I doubt it will ever happen.

Jul 01, 2011 13:25 PM
rating: 0
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Jim "King" Leyritz

Jul 01, 2011 15:30 PM
rating: -5

It's pretty hard to keep reading after the statement that Will Clark has a legitimate Hall of Fame case. Are we just letting everyone in now?

Jul 01, 2011 15:44 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

It's not legitimate in that he definitely belongs, but in that, if he got in, he wouldn't drag down the quality of the Hall in any way. That is, he's better than a lot of players already in and not that much worse than some who no one has a problem with... Borderline, but legitimate.

Jul 01, 2011 16:37 PM

Okay, I had some time on my hands.

For each franchise (except for the Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, and Rockies), I found the player who:
(a) had the highest career WAR for that team, as measured by baseball-reference.com;
(b) has been retired for at least ten years;
(c) actually wore a uniform number for that team (so Cap Anson, Walter Johnson, and Eddie Collins will not be on this list); and
(d) have not had their uniform numbers retired.

Here are the names:

Angels: Chuck Finley
Astros: Cesar Cedeno
Athletics: Jimmie Foxx
Blue Jays: Dave Stieb
Braves: Wally Berger
Brewers: Cecil Cooper
Cardinals: Ted Simmons
Cubs: Stan Hack
Dodgers: Dazzy Vance
Giants: Travis Jackson
Indians: Joe Sewell
Mariners: Jay Buhner
Mets: Jerry Koosman
Nationals: Steve Rogers
Orioles: Boog Powell
Padres: Andy Ashby
Phillies: Dick Allen
Pirates: Arky Vaughan
Rangers: Buddy Bell
Red Sox: Wade Boggs
Reds: Pete Rose
Royals: Amos Otis
Tigers: Lou Whitaker
Twins: Sam Rice
White Sox: Red Faber
Yankees: Willie Randolph

Jul 01, 2011 20:07 PM
rating: 9

I think Gabby Hartnett would be a better Cub to have than Stan Hack, considering he's in the Hall of Fame. Of course, Cubs history seems to begin with the day Ernie Banks joined the club, so it's probably a moot point.

Jul 01, 2011 22:11 PM
rating: 0

Well done. The Blue Jays don't retire numbers, though. They have what they call the "Level of Excellence", with big banners honouring the players. Stieb is thus honoured, as are Roberto Alomar, George Bell, Cito Gaston, Tony Fernandez and Joe Carter. And Tom Cheek, of course.

Jul 02, 2011 06:25 AM
rating: 0

I think the Blue Jays are lame for not retiring numbers. When they get on the stick and start retiring them, Stieb should be first.

If you're looking for the top Blue Jay who has been retired for 10 years and is not in the Panorama of Recognition or whatever they call it, the first name up is Jimmy Key.

Jul 02, 2011 11:24 AM
rating: 0

It's a Toronto thing. The Maple Leafs, do the same. They have retired two numbers (#3, for Ace Bailey who was injuired in game action so severely that the league's players put together an impromptu All-Star game to raise money for his care, and #4, for Bill Barilko, who was killed in a plane crash a few months after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgMCF_01cQg&feature=related). Other important numbers are honoured, but not retired.

Jul 02, 2011 14:44 PM
rating: 0

You have the Leaf numbers wrong. Barilko's retired number is #5, and Ace Bailey's is #6. Phaneuf is wearing #3 right now, and I believe that Jeff Finger wore #4 the last time he stepped on the ACC ice (hopefully he never will again). Everything else is correct though.

Jul 04, 2011 15:24 PM
rating: 0

You are correct. Don't know how I messed that up.

Jul 04, 2011 18:57 PM
rating: 0

(Actually, Walter Johnson wore a uniform number for the Senators as a manager, and Eddie Collins may have worn one for the Athletics as a coach. So there may be better players available than the ones I originally listed...)

Jul 05, 2011 20:26 PM
rating: 0

Came for Keith Hernandez, leaving satisfied.

With Gary Carter likely only having a year or less to live, there's been a lot of buzz among Met fans about whether or not to retire the Kid's number fairly soon. Personally I think it would be a shame if they did so before Keith's was retired.

Jul 01, 2011 21:02 PM
rating: 0

Your list is awesome, though I'm rolling on the floor laughing about the chance Steve Rogers jersey getting retired in D.C.

Jul 01, 2011 21:54 PM
rating: 0
Dan McKay

I think the Giants only retire numbers for Hall of Famers.

Jul 01, 2011 22:12 PM
rating: 0

St Louis cardinals- Willie McGee hands Down

Jul 02, 2011 00:19 AM
rating: 3

Yes! Retire 51.

Jul 02, 2011 03:53 AM
rating: 0

Agree. It's unofficially retired anyway since there's a huge uproar whenever they think about giving it to someone else.

Jul 02, 2011 19:41 PM
rating: 0

I think the funniest name on my list is Dick Allen. The notion of anybody taking any time to honor him, after his career habit of alienating absolutely everybody, is pretty laughable.

Even though, by JAWS, he has no Hall of Fame case, somehow I find Amos Otis the most compelling name on the list.

Jul 02, 2011 03:32 AM
rating: 0

Mark Grace for the Cubs.

Jul 02, 2011 05:56 AM
rating: 0

Absolutely! It should hang at Wrigley and every bar from lakeview to the Gold-Coast.

Jul 02, 2011 14:44 PM
rating: 1

Interesting note about your Giants proposals -- not only does Barry Bonds share no. 25 with his father (and I'd certainly have no problem with a joint honor), but both Will and Jack Clark wore no. 22. The way the numbers are currently displayed at the Giants' park might confuse some of us old enough to remember Jack's Giants tenure. (Can't remember offhand if Christy Mathewson's plaque says Christy, to distinguish him from Henry . . .)

Jul 02, 2011 07:39 AM
rating: 0

With all due respect to Henry (and I really hope this comment doesn't make me seem like an idiot), I've never heard of him. Also, it's been a few months since I went to AT&T Park, but don't the Giants just display the numbers (no names)?

Jul 03, 2011 01:11 AM
rating: 0

Christy's brother Henry pitched a little for the Giants in 1906 and 1907, but never won a game. (Hence, I remember as a kid before the Perry brothers took over the record, the trivia question was, which brothers have the most wins, and the answer was Christy (373) and Henry (0), with 373. The rejoinder was, Cy Young and his sister had 511.)

At AT&T, as Mathewson wore no number, there's just a sign with his name.

Jul 03, 2011 08:37 AM
rating: 2

As a Diamondbacks fan, I'm surprised that Luis Gonzalez (20) saw his digits on the wall before Randy Johnson (51). Four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards and the 2001 World Series co-MVP seems like as solid a case for number retirement as I can imagine.

Jul 02, 2011 08:09 AM
rating: 0

Retiring Keith Hernandez' number, much less HoF candidacy, is ridiculous. A total of 3 seasons with more than 100 runs or RBI's is way low for a 1B. A .297 BA is nice, but nothing special, again, especially for a 1B, and combined with an OPS - BA (so BA isn't counted twice)in the low .200's. There are usually at least four 1B every year that exceed .300. His glove wasn't that much better than the average 1B. I don't really see Will Clark up there either, but I can at least see him in the discussion for a retired number.

Jul 02, 2011 12:58 PM
rating: -2

"runs, RBI, BA?" Really?

Jul 04, 2011 12:20 PM
rating: 0

Don't forget "OPS - BA".

Jul 05, 2011 05:01 AM
rating: 0

Fun feature, but I'd also like to see a list of numbers that ARE retired, but SHOULDN'T be. Half the numbers that grace the walls of Minute Maid Park, for example.

Dierker, Wynn, Cruz Jr, Umbricht, Wilson.


Jul 02, 2011 14:08 PM
rating: 0

Garvey's #6 on the Petco wall appalls me :-(

Perhaps if he's part of the group that buys the Dodgers, maybe then they'll make the similar mistake of retiring his number and give the Padres cause to remove it from their wall? I know that's unprecidented (and classless), so what I'm trying to figure out is a way to get Garvey to request that the Padres unretire his number ... hoping ... hoping ... hoping ...

Jul 02, 2011 16:30 PM
rating: 0

Jeff Conine is Mr. Marlin. Trader Jack is now managing but next year it would be great to honor him unless they plan to keep calling him back as long as he can get from the dugout to the mound.

Jul 02, 2011 18:52 PM
rating: 0

I don't think Rose's number should be retired. Retirement should mean something.

Of course, as also pointed out, Steve "Too Stupid To Have Committed Fraud" Garvey managed to get his number retired. (Try Googling Enforma, if you don't remember that episode.)

I tried to reply to the long list above (well-researched!) because Cesar Cedeno was found to have accidentally shot a woman to death. Given Cedeno's other adventures, that's a particularly Cedeno-favorable view of the facts.

And I agree with the comment that, generally, fewer numbers should be retired. I had no idea whose numbers were retired in Houston until I was at Minute Maid last week.... shocking, really. Not Garvey-shocking, but pretty shocking.


Jul 02, 2011 22:33 PM
rating: 0

Jimmy Wynn was signing autographs at Minute Maid on Saturday when I was there. I was sad. He had crutches, and nobody was at the table waiting for an autograph.

But yeah, the list at Minute Maid should be Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell. You could make a pretty convincing argument for Joe Niekro as well, yet his name isn't on the wall.

Why is Jim Umbricht retired? What happened to him really sucked, but he pitched 3 full seasons, was a reliever, and was a member of the Colt 45's for only 2 seasons. Am I heartless?

Jul 04, 2011 15:58 PM
rating: 1

Umbricht was struck down mid-career by a particularly nasty variety of cancer (melanoma) and died in 1964 at age 33. His number was retired immediately, due in no small part to the enormous amount of publicity that his battle against the disease got. Given that the Astros (then Colt .45s) had only been around for two years at the time, his was the first Houston number to be retired, and it was as much a matter of building rapport with the community as recognition of his value as a player, teammate, etc. Numbers have been retired for worse reasons.

Jul 05, 2011 08:27 AM
rating: 1

Just wow. Jimmy Wynn was an excellent player. We hear all the time about how each new generation is increasingly oblivious to the accomplishments of people of even the recent past, but that is simply embarrassing.

Wynn is not a well-publicized player today by any means, so I can only assume we in the analysis community have more work to do getting his name out there for deserved recognition as we've seen with Blyleven and some other notables. Maybe the Astros' competitive downtown of recent years is responsible for turning away some of the older fans who no doubt remember Jimmy's abilities.

Jul 05, 2011 10:08 AM
rating: 1

Re lofton: we do.

Jul 03, 2011 14:00 PM
rating: 1
Matt Kory

"The club must really dislike that Yankee Stadium victory lap."

Ha. Ya think?

Jul 03, 2011 20:58 PM
rating: 0

Kenny Lofton "was the smiling face of that franchise more than anyone else".

Hehe, was that a pun on Chief Wahoo?

Jul 05, 2011 05:06 AM
rating: 0

The Red Sox have had Boggs' #26 on the shelf since 2004. Roger Clemens was the last Sox to wear #21, Pedro Martinez #45, and for some reason, Curt Schilling #38...I suspect they will take their sweet time reissuing numbers 33 and 34 when the day comes.

The question is what to do with Pedro's #45. That was, ah, quite the run from 1998-2004.

Jul 06, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 0
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