July 1, 2011
Numbers That Should Be Retired
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.