Fun with jersey numbers: The non-retirees
Excluding Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which has been retired league-wide, there are 172 retired numbers in baseball. Considering the Hall of Fame has elected 208 former Major Leaguers, a retired number is one of the most exclusive honors in the game.
Diving into the numbers, a few interesting trends emerge. For example, 50 percent of those numbers were retired after 1990. Numbers 50 or above have only been retired five times.
Three numbers, in particular, stand out from the crowd.
Numbers 38, 46, and 48 have never been retired by any team. There are other numbers that haven't been retired, most in the 70s and higher, but we'll focus on these three because they fall under that magical No. 50.
It's not that great players haven't worn these numbers -- they have -- but for whatever reason, their impact didn't last long enough with any one team to warrant a removal from service. Although that could change soon:
According to Baseball Reference, 689 players have worn the number 38 since the league's inception. Steve Carlton has the highest career Wins Above Replacement of any player to don a 38 jersey, but he wore it only during his two years in Minnesota.
Curt Schilling wore 38 longer than any other player and is also arguably the best player to wear it as his primary choice. He made his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year, earning 38.8 percent of the vote, so he still has a long way to go before being enshrined in the Hall.
Schilling is a complicated candidate, as he's kind of a man without a home. He was a three-time all star in Philadelphia, but only had one deep post-season run. He won a championship in Arizona, but only played there for four seasons. He won two championships in Boston, and was an emotional leader of the 2004 squad, but the Sox usually require to spend 10 years in the Hub before retiring a number.
Schilling's career is certainly notable in total, but splitting his prime years between three different cities may keep No. 38 on the non-retired list.
We won't waste too much time here. Andy Pettitte has worn 46 for 15 seasons, and knowing the Yankees penchant for retiring numbers (they lead all teams with 16 non-Robinson retirees), it's a good bet he'll get his ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
Hundreds of other players have worn 46, including Bob Stanley and Mike Flanagan, but none left as indelible a mark as Pettitte. The left-hander has won 230 games in pinstripes (including 19 in the posteason) and racked up five World Series rings along the way.
No. 48 is a particularly interesting case, as the two best players to wear it for an extended period of time were longtime Cubs pitcher Rick Reuschel and Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter -- neither of whom appear destined for Cooperstown. Reuschel appeared on the HOF ballot only once, recording 0.4 percent of the vote, while Hunter has never placed higher than sixth in MVP voting.
It looks pretty certain that 48 is some time away from joining the ranks of retired numbers.
Do you have a favorite player who's number you'd want retired? Do you have a favorite number you're sad hasn't had its day in the sun? Let us know: leave a comment.
-- Dakota Gardner / MLB.com
(Rick Reuschel image via HeartbreakingCards)