Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Retired Jersey Numbers

I understand that an organization retires a player's number as a way of honoring the player for all the player did for the organization. But wouldn't a statue serve the same purpose?

I say this because some numbers have been worn by more than one superstar, in the same organization, and it just might be a bad thing to remove the mojo that number brings.

Lou Gehrig was the first player in major league baseball to have his number, 4, retired.
(The Dodgers retired #4 for Duke Snider, The Giants retired #4 for Mel Ott.)

There were also 6 players who had their jerseys retired who played before the advent of uniform numbers. They are: Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander, Chuck Klein, John McGraw and Christy Mathewson.

(Klein, of the Phillies, had various numbers at the end of his career, but he did not wear a consistent number so the Phillies chose to honor him with a "P" on his jersey.)

(John McGraw and Christy Mathewson of the Giants have their numbers denoted with an "NY" and their names at AT&T Park.)

Three times a number has been retired twice. The Cincinnati Redlegs decided to pay tribute to Willard Herschberger by retiring his number 5, after the catcher committed suicide in 1940. It was later unretired in 1942 and then along came another catcher by the name of Johnny Bench and the number was retired for good.

The New York Yankees retired #8 for Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.
The Montreal Expos retired #10 for Rusty "Le Grande Orange" Staub and Andre Dawson.

Let's switch leagues and jump to the National Football League. And the best example for keeping a jersey in circulation is the #20 of the Detroit Lions. Wide receiver, Jim Doran on the Lions' championship teams of the 1950s, Hall of Famer Lem Barney, running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders all wore the number until it was retired for Sanders. Now that was some serious mojo.

Occasionally when I tune into a ballgame and I'm watching a game with players I am not familiar with I try to recall who wore the number before them and often I can come up with pretty fair ballplayers and that's where this thought came from. Just watching a game and wondering why numbers that have brought a little mojo, seemed to have a little magic and almost always brought good fortune were taken out of circulation.

Imagine if the Yankees had kept #3 (Ruth) or #4 (Gehrig) in circulation. The Braves #44 (Aaron), or the Giants' #24 (Mays) or #44 (McCovey). Or those loveable losers, the Chicago Cubs, a team in-need of mojo, had kept Ernie Banks' #14 in circulation their fates may have fared a little better. GO with the mojo vs. letting go of the mojo?

(thanks to Wikipedia)

Kevin Marquez