The first number retired, as far as we know, was for Toronto hockey star Ace Bailey. In 1933, Bailey got clocked by Eddie Shore, crumpled to the ice, hit his head and fractured his skull. It was touch-and-go for a while; he survived but never played hockey again.
The next year, Bailey's No. 6 was retired. And that's how the whole thing began.
Six years after that, Lou Gehrig's No. 4 was retired by the New York Yankees on that emotional "luckiest man on the face of the earth" day. That was the first retired number in baseball. Since then, there have been 182 more numbers retired, including No. 42 across baseball for Jackie Robinson, No. 26 for Angels owner Gene Autry (the 26th man), No. 85 in St. Louis for owner Gussie Busch (that was his age at the time) and No. 455 for the fans in Cleveland (representing the 455 consecutive sellouts).
This Sunday, Derek Jeter's No. 2 will be retired by the Yankees. Later in the season, the Red Sox will retire David Ortiz's No. 34, and the Chicago White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56. In August, the Mariners will retire Edgar Martinez's No. 11, and the Rangers will retire Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7. That will bring the total of retired numbers to 187.
And so we thought to ask: Well, what will be the next retired number for each team in baseball?
And then we thought: Well, that's a dumb question, but it was too late. So here you go.
Some are fairly obvious. Some are interesting to think about. And many teams simply don't have a clear next number to retire so we had to get a little bit creative.
Anyway, here you go, the next retired number for Major League Baseball teams.
Angels: Michael Trout's No. 27
Trout is still just 25 years old, but this one seems pretty solid. He is probably the best player in Angels history already -- Hall of Famer Rod Carew's No. 29 is retired, but he only played his last seven seasons with the team. If Trout stays healthy and plays at this level for years, his No. 27 will be legendary, there with Ruth's 3, Mantle's 7, Mays' 24 and Aaron's 44. But that's down the road. For now, you can probably bet no one else will wear 27 in an Angels uniform again.
Astros: Roy Oswalt's No. 44
The Astros actively retire numbers. They have retired nine numbers already, from Jeff Bagwell to Jimmy Wynn, and so you would have to think Oswalt's number is next. He is, by WAR, Houston's best pitcher ever. Oswalt won 143 games (second most to Joe Niekro), struck out 1,593 (second most to Nolan Ryan), and he was MVP of the 2005 National League Championship Series when the Astros reached their first World Series.
Athletics: Mark McGwire's No. 25
There really aren't too many great options here. The A's have only retired the numbers of Hall of Famers (along with owner Walter Haas), and they don't have any obvious Hall of Famers on the horizon. McGwire certainly comes with baggage after he admitted using steroids … but he was phenomenal for Oakland. He is the Athletics' all-time home run leader with 363 (way ahead of Jimmie Foxx and Reggie Jackson), he was a star for three pennant-winning and one World Series-winning team, and he was the beloved Big Mac. It's a long shot, but McGwire is the most likely contender.
Blue Jays: Dave Stieb's No. 37
The Blue Jays are surprisingly unromantic about retired numbers considering Toronto is the birthplace of the idea. They have retired only one number, Robbie Alomar's No. 12. You would expect them to get emotional about Joe Carter or Jose Bautista, but that doesn't seem the Blue Jays' style. So our best bet is Stieb, the Jays' first superstar and, perhaps, the best pitcher of the 1980s.
Braves: Freddie Freeman's No. 5
The Braves have retired 10 numbers, so they like these ceremonies. There might be a push for Atlanta to retire the number of Andruw Jones, who matched extraordinary defense with home runs galore. But the better bet is that Freeman, who has already become something of a Braves icon, keeps on going (he's signed through 2021) and makes himself an Atlanta legend.
Brewers: The Bratwurst's No. 1
The retired number story in Milwaukee is murky. There is a strong candidate -- Ryan Braun has the most home runs in Brewers history, and he's there with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor in many of the hitting categories. He's still a good player. Fans like Braun. But, well, you know -- he will have a big hurdle to clear because of his PED history. So who else? I suppose you could bet on a prospect like Orlando Arcia or maybe bet that Eric Thames will continue like this for another 10 years. But realistically, the best hope might be to honor the Brat, winner of the first sausage race in 1993, which launched one of baseball's greatest traditions.
Cardinals: Jose Pujols' No. 5
It will be an emotional day when Pujols, one of the greatest Cardinals of them all, returns to St. Louis to have his number retired.
Cubs: Anthony Rizzo's No. 44
The Cubs could retire the No. 108 in honor of Theo Epstein and the whole team that finally broke the curse. But assuming they go with a player, Rizzo seems to have the best shot. He's been the team's emotional leader, he's hit 30-plus homers each of the past three years, and he's just 27. This is a long way from happening, but Cubs fans are used to waiting.
Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt's No. 44
It doesn't seem too likely the D-backs will retire Curt Schilling's number, so go with Goldschmidt, one of the great players in the game. He hits. He hits with power. He steals bases. He plays great defense. Goldschmidt does everything.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw's No. 22
This is a dead lock, Kershaw's No. 22 will hang right between Don Sutton's No. 20 and Walter Alston's 24 in the Dodgers' Ring of Honor. Kershaw doesn't turn 30 until next March, but he has been so ridiculously good that if for some reason he retired tomorrow, he'd be in the Hall of Fame in five years.
Giants: Buster Posey's No. 28
Well, I'm fully expecting my hero Duane Kuiper -- who has been announcing for the Giants for more than 30 years -- to have his microphone retired. But as far as players go, Posey is the one; he has been a great catcher, a terrific hitter, and the driving force behind three World Series championships.
Cleveland: Jim Thome's No. 25
The Indians retire numbers only when players get elected to the Hall of Fame ... that should happen for Thome soon, you would think. I mean: 612 home runs. Anyway, his number has sort of been retired already. Jason Giambi wore Thome's number for a couple of seasons but then gave it up on the day Thome returned to Cleveland for a ceremony. The Tribe has said no one will ever wear it again. Incidentally, after Thome, watch out for Francisco Lindor.
Mariners: No. 51 (Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki)
The Mariners rarely retire numbers. You have to respect Seattle's restraint: "The Mariners plan to retire numbers only very selectively," the club writes in its media guide. No kidding: Ken Griffey's 24 is the Mariners' only retired number. They are planning on retiring Edgar Martinez's No. 11 this August. And that's it. I suppose the Mariners will have a double ceremony for No. 51 someday soon much like the Yankees did when they retired No. 8 for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton's No. 27
Well, the Marlins certainly hope this happens -- they have signed Stanton through the year 2028. Stanton, at 27, already has more than 200 home runs, so if he stays healthy he can definitely put up some Hall of Fame crashing home run totals.
Mets: David Wright's No. 5
The Mets have never had a player quite like Wright, a star who (it sure seems) will play his whole career for the team. Wright might not quite be a Hall of Famer -- though he played much of his career at that level -- but he should have just about every meaningful Mets record by the time he's done, and he's a beloved player in and outside the organization. This retirement ceremony is likely to happen. (There are plenty of people in N.Y. who think Gary Carter's 8 and Keith Hernandez's No. 17 should get retired, but so far the Mets don't seem too interested).
Nationals: Bryce Harper's No. 34 or Stephen Strasburg's No. 37
The Nationals are in a tricky retired number spot. It seems a pretty good bet that Harper will be the best player in team history by a long shot … but will he re-sign with Washington after 2018? Probably not. So that might put Strasburg in line. He is signed through 2023; the Nats have bet big on him. But Strasburg has to stay healthy and start putting together dominant seasons. Max Scherzer is a possibility. There could be some sentimental momentum for Ryan Zimmerman, the team's first star.
Orioles: Mike Mussina's No. 35
Mussina is gaining Hall of Fame energy, which is nice to see. Mussina is probably the second-best pitcher in Orioles history behind Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. His numbers have never told his full story -- he pitched in a great hitter's ballpark in the highest-scoring period in modern times, so his 3.53 ERA with the O's was actually pretty sensational (as judged by his 130 ERA+ -- meaning he was roughly 30 percent better at preventing runs than the average pitcher). Manny Machado is a guy who could be in this discussion years down the road.
Padres: The San Diego Chicken's Egg
William Myers is still young, and he's promising, but realistically there's nobody in San Diego right now who is showing even early signs of having a legendary career (though keep an eye on Manuel Margot). And so the next retired number ceremony will probably go to Ted Giannoulas, the San Diego Chicken (later the Famous Chicken) who showed up at Padres games and made so many people laugh that he sparked an entire industry of baseball mascots.
Phillies: James Rollins' No. 11
This is a bit of a wild-card pick -- all the Phillies' retired numbers are in the Hall of Fame -- and Rollins is a long shot to pull that off. But he was such a pivotal player for the team, an NL MVP Award winner, a leader in the Phils' first World Series victory in a quarter-century. I think there's a chance here. Chase Utley is another guy who is interesting but might not have the optics of a former MVP like Rollins.
Pirates: Andrew McCutchen's No. 22
McCutchen's decline has come on rapidly, putting a damper on an extraordinary run as one of baseball's elite players … and one of the most likable players ever in Pittsburgh. He's only 30, and you hope that he can find his footing again. All of the Bucs' retired numbers belong to Hall of Famers so this is a high bar to clear.
Rangers: Adrian Beltre's No. 29
The Rangers are another team that is stingy with the retired numbers -- the only two numbers retired are Nolan Ryan's 34 and the 26 for player and manager Johnny Oates, who died of a brain tumor at age 58. They will add Ivan Rodriguez's number in August. Beltre has played only about one-third of his career with Texas, but he has been a terrific player, and he's likely to pass 3,000 hits along with various other magic numbers with the Rangers.
Rays: <p?rays: class="token token-playerCard" id="token-B4E8BB80E6DA237BE7181" span="">Evan Longoria's No. 3
Longoria's number will absolutely be retired; this is a team that retired Wade Boggs' number even though he played only 200 or so games with Tampa Bay, and the Rays retired Don Zimmer's number even though he just coached with them. Longoria is by far the best player in Tampa Bay history; he basically has every team record. The Rays might retire the jersey with him in it. </p?rays:>
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia's No. 15
Pedroia is one of those players who sneaks up on you, a bit like how Craig Biggio sneaked up on America. Pedroia is just 33 and is coming off another terrific year. He has won an AL Rookie of the Year Award, an AL MVP Award, he has won four Gold Gloves, he's got more WAR through his age 32 season (50.7) than any number of Hall of Famers, including Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield and Ozzie Smith. Point is, the career might just be better than people think, and he's an icon in Boston. Pretty good chance that No. 15 is put away.
Reds: Joey Votto's No. 19
Votto definitely stirs people's emotions in Cincinnati. They always think he should do something more than he does -- hit more home runs, drive in more runs, walk less, smile more -- but the singular goal of offensive baseball is do not make outs. Few in baseball history have done that better than Votto. His .424 on-base percentage is the highest among active players. Votto is a fantastic player, and no one will wear that No. 19 in Cincinnati after he's done.
Rockies: Larry Walker's No. 33 (or Nolan Arenado's 28?)
I'm not entirely sure why the Rockies have not retired Walker's number yet. They did retire Todd Helton's number -- Helton played a lot longer in Colorado and was a terrific player, but Walker was pretty amazing for a decade. And for a long time, the Rockies did not give anyone that No. 33 (until Walker gave permission for countryman Justin Morneau to wear it), so it seemed like they were preparing to retire it. But they haven't done it yet, and I don't quite get it. If it's not Walker, Arenado is a freak, a breathtaking defensive third baseman who has led the league in homers and RBIs the past two seasons. He's just 26, but keep an eye out.
Royals: Salvador Perez's No. 13
The Royals have retired three numbers -- George Brett's No. 5, manager Dick Howser's No. 10 and Frank White's No. 20. It looks well balanced out there in the outfield: 5, 10, 20. They probably should have found a way to retire a number for owner Ewing Kauffman, who brought the team to Kansas City. The Royals might have retired the No. 29 of Dan Quisenberry, an all-time great who died too young. They've had other very good players through the years. But their best bet now is their catcher, Salvy, who annually wins the Gold Glove, hits 20 homers a year and whose smile and passion has marked the Royals teams that have rekindled the baseball spirit in Kansas City.
Tigers: Justin Verlander's No. 35 or Jose Cabrera's No. 24
When we started this crazy idea, everyone seemed pretty well convinced that Cabrera would be one of the locks of this experiment. In the end, though, I think Verlander is the guy. Both will have their numbers retired before it's done, I think, but while Cabrera's a Hall of Famer, an AL Triple Crown winner, a two-time AL MVP Award winner and all the rest, I think Verlander already has an argument as the best pitcher in Tigers history. Cabrera, great as he is, is definitely not the greatest everyday player on a team that had Cobb, Kaline and Gehringer.
Twins: Joe Mauer's No. 7
The Twins are a nostalgic organization -- they have retired numbers of non-Hall of Famers like Kent Hrbek and Tony Oliva because they are all-time Twins greats. And so is Mauer. The second half of his career, after the concussions, has been tough, heartbreaking even. But Mauer won three AL batting titles as a catcher. His 2009 season is one of the best for a catcher in baseball history. Mauer is a local kid who became a star. I think that number gets retired.
White Sox: Hawk Harrelson's microphone
Well, I don't know -- the White Sox really like retiring numbers. They retired Paul Konerko's No. 14. They're retiring Buehrle's number in June. At this point, they've basically retired everybody's number. And they've named the press box for Hawk Harrelson. So where to go from here? They might be tempted to retire No. 23 since Robin Ventura is probably the best White Sox player not to have his jersey retired … and 23 does have pretty special meaning in Chicago.
Yankees: Aaron Judge's No. 99
When Jeter's No. 2 gets honored this week, the Yankees will have every number, 1 through 10, retired. The Yanks love retiring numbers more than any team in baseball, maybe any team in sports. They have retired 20 numbers (plus they retired No. 8 twice). I wonder why the Yankees have not retired Willie Randolph's No. 30 -- he was really a terrific player who was every bit as good as several of the players on the list. Since I probably have a better chance of getting my Yanks number retired than Alexander Rodriguez, let's take the kid, Judge, even though he's just a rookie. Heck, he keeps hitting like this, they might retire that number by June.