Since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968, there has always been one specific qualification for a player to get his number retired: Hall of Fame inductee.
The five numbers adorning the tarps in Oakland Coliseum’s highest point, Mount Davis, are all National Baseball Hall of Famers: Reggie Jackson (No. 9), Rickey Henderson (24), Catfish Hunter (27), Rollie Fingers (34) and Dennis Eckersley (43). However, the next player set to have his number retired is not a Hall of Famer, but he is certainly deserving of the honor.
During last season’s 1989 World Series championship team reunion, the A’s announced they would also be retiring the jersey number of a key piece from that squad in Dave Stewart, who like Fingers also donned the No. 34. There is the chance this could be a one-off with the number technically already retired, but the club has made a point in recent years to celebrate its rich history in Oakland, and the connection doesn’t get much more special than Stewart being a local legend as an Oakland native.
With the door potentially open for more non-Hall of Famers, here are the top candidates:
The A’s would have five numbers to choose from with Blue, but he truly left an imprint on the franchise pitching in the No. 35 jersey. Drafted by the Athletics in 1967, Blue spent the first nine seasons of his 17-year career with the A’s. The left-hander helped form a dynasty, winning the American League Cy Young and MVP Awards in '71 before contributing to three straight A’s World Series titles from ‘72-74. He may not be enshrined in Cooperstown, but the three-time AL All-Star was inducted into the Oakland A’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
Sticking with that A’s dynasty of the early 1970s, getting it done on offense and defense was the captain of those clubs, Bando. He just missed out on capturing the AL MVP Award in ‘71, finishing second to his teammate in Blue. But even without the award, Bando’s legacy as perhaps the greatest third baseman to come through Oakland was established in his 11 seasons with the club that featured four All-Star selections and three top-four finishes in MVP Award voting.
Controversy has clouded McGwire in the past, but the A’s have embraced their all-time home run leader in recent years, even inducting him into the Oakland A’s Hall of Fame in 2019. Winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1987, earning nine All-Star selections and powering the A’s to a World Series championship in '89 during his 12 seasons with Oakland, McGwire certainly has the résumé worthy of a number retirement.
The A’s have yet to honor a player from the club’s Philadelphia incarnation, though there are plenty of Hall of Famers to choose from. The list has to begin with Foxx, a legendary slugger who in 11 seasons with the A’s won a Triple Crown, two AL MVP Awards and blasted 302 home runs for the franchise. Foxx was an integral piece of back-to-back World Series-winning clubs from 1929-30.
Establishing himself as one of the greatest defensive third basemen the game has ever seen, it’s not entirely crazy to start thinking about Chapman as a candidate to have his number retired within the next two decades. Through just two full big league seasons, he has taken on the role of team leader, and the accolades are piling up with two Gold Glove Awards, two Platinum Glove Awards and an All-Star selection. Chapman’s career 15.5 fWAR at age 26 is already sixth highest among third basemen in A’s history, well in line to catch the all-time leader in Bando (47.5) should he remain in Oakland for the long term. He’ll have to keep producing, but so far, the trajectory is heading in the right direction.