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Rethinking the Retired Numbers: (Part 2 of 2)

The Yankees announced this week that they intend to retire the #21 for Paul O’Neill on August 21st this season. After nearly 20 seasons of the Yankees unofficially retiring the number (except for Hawkins and Ensberg in 2008), they have put it in the works to retire their 22nd number.

We originally ran this article on July 5th, 2020 and felt it appropriate to re-run a miniseries that generated a lot of discussion.

 

After looking at some common ideas for a system for retiring numbers on Friday, today, Ethan Semendinger has taken that list to see which players from Yankees history would now find this high honor.

To see the first post in this quick series, where I outline the 4 commonly suggested criteria, click here.

 

Players/Managers Numbers that would be Removed from the Four Criteria*:

Billy Martin (#1)

Breaks Criteria #1, as his number was retired for his time as a manager

Joe Torre (#6)

Breaks Criteria #1, as his number was also retired for his time as a manager

Roger Maris (#9)

Breaks Criteria #2 and #4 as he did not play 10+ years with the Yankees, nor has he been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Jorge Posada (#20)

Breaks Criteria #4 as he has not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Paul O’Neill (#21)

Breaks Criteria #2 and #4, as he did not spend 10+ years donning the Yankees pinstripes, nor has he been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Don Mattingly (#23)

Breaks Criteria #3 and #4, as he did not win multiple championships pre-1993, nor was on multiple competitive teams post-1993; he has also not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Casey Stengel (#37)

Breaks Criteria #1 as his number was retired for his time as a manager.

Reggie Jackson (#44)

Breaks Criteria #2, as he did not spend 10+ years donning the Yankees pinstripes.

Andy Pettitte (#46)

Breaks Criteria #4 as he has not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ron Guidry (#49)

Breaks Criteria #4 as he has not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bernie Williams (#51)

Breaks Criteria #4 as he has not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

*Note: This list excludes both Thurman Munson (#15) and Elston Howard (#32), as their number retirements hold more weight and were two that exceptions were made for, as we discussed in Friday’s article.

 

Players/Managers Numbers that would be Added from the Four Criteria*:

Earle Combs (#1)

A New York Yankee centerfielder from 1924-1935, his 12-years in the pinstripes helped secure 3 World Championships in 1927, 1928, and 1932. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1970, thus securing his own retired number in this system, which would end up replacing Billy Martin.

Tony Lazzeri (#6)

A New York Yankee infielder from 1926-1937, his 12-years in the pinstripes helped secure 5 World Championships in 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, and 1937. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1991, thus securing his own retired number in this system, which would end up replacing Joe Torre.

Lefty Gomez (#11)

A New York Yankee pitcher from 1930-1942, his 13-years in the pinstripes helped secure 5 World Championships in 1932 and each year from 1936 to 1939. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1972, thus securing his own retired number in this system. This would be the only truly new number added.

Red Ruffing (#15)

A New York Yankee pitcher from 1930-1946 (he didn’t play in 1943 or 1944 due to World War II), his 15-years in the pinstripes helped secure 6 World Championships in 1932, each year from 1936-1939, and 1941. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1967, thus securing his own retired number in this system, sharing it with Thurman Munson.

Waite Hoyt (Blank)*

A New York Yankee pitcher from 1921-1930, his 10-years in the pinstripes helped secure 3 World Championships in 1923, 1927, and 1928. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1969, thus securing his own retired number in this system, which would go in unnumbered as he played most of his career before numbers were a part of the uniform.

Herb Pennock (Blank)**

A New York Yankee pitcher from 1923-1933, his 11-years in the pinstripes helped to secure 3 World Championships in 1923, 1927, 1928, and 1932. He was inducted into the BBHOF in 1948, thus securing his own retired number in this system, which would also go in unnumbered as he played most of his career before numbers were a part of the uniform.

* A case can definitely be made against Waite Hoyt as his 1930 season with the Yankees consisted of playing just 8 games before being traded to the Detroit Tigers, which if not counted would push him out of consideration.

 

My Closing Thoughts:

Given this new system, the Yankees would open up nine numbers (#9, #20, #21, #23, #37, #44, #46, #49, #51) while re-retiring three (#1, #6, #15), adding one new (#11), and two blanks. This would bring down the total retired numbers to 15, while still honoring 18 of the most famous and historic Yankees players.

Now, obviously this system isn’t perfect and leaves out the likes of many great Yankees of whom the history of the New York Yankees would be incomplete without mentioning like: Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, and Paul O’Neill. Those players, however, could have still been enshrined in monument park with a plaque. This comes with the territory of being part of maybe the most historic franchise in sports. Great players need, and should, have to be legendary in order to be given the highest honor by a team.

Two years ago, I stated that I wouldn’t be in favor of implementing this system in real life due to the public relations nightmare it would cause and the obvious distain that it would garner from the New York media. However, I disagree with my old self now. This system should be implemented as soon as humanly possible. This system should’ve been implemented years ago to prevent so many of the recent players- while good-to-great- from getting their numbers retired.

The main reason the Yankees started to retire so many numbers recently was not about honoring Yankees players of the 1990’s. Think about when the Yankees retired the likes of Posada, Pettitte, and Williams: 2015. The prior 2 seasons the Yankees missed the playoffs in their entirety and they finished 12 games outside of first place in the AL East. The Yankees did this in order to boost attendance and play off the feelings of nostalgia.

Having their numbers retired, as much as it annoys me to have to admit it, ruins their legacies. Bernie Williams had a legacy as the forgotten player of the great Yankees teams around the turn of the millennia. That made him special, in an odd and sad way. You can’t have those feelings about a player whose number is retired. Andy Pettitte may become a hall of famer some day (I will argue as such given the Hall of Fame cases made for players like Jack Morris). Now, how much excitement would it have brought to bring back Pettitte a few years from now, as a Hall of Famer, to get his number retired? I’d argue more than he got. (It’s laughable, but the Yankees had better attendance the day before Andy Pettitte Day while against the same opponent, with the same game time.)

I’m disappointed as a Yankees fan that everything feels more and more like a gimmick. Number retirements should mean something, and at this point, they feel extremely overplayed and unimportant.

At the very least, go all-in on this if we’re going to make a mockery of the highest honor a team can give to a player. The Yankees already have a duplicate retired number with Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (#8), why don’t they start re-retiring the numbers of some of the other historic Yankees greats? Give them another to moment to shine in the spotlight while being honored along with some other already-retired Yankees greats. Guys like Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, and Red Ruffing deserve better.

 

Article By: Ethan Semendinger

Original Posting Date: Sunday July 5th, 2020

Publish Date (Edit): Friday February 25th, 2022

#MonumentPark #RetiredNumbers

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