Because the Rays didn't play their first game until 1998, the franchise has only retired the numbers of two players who have donned the team’s jersey. The third number that hangs in the Tropicana Field rafters is No. 42, which is retired by every Major League team in honor of Jackie Robinson.
But while the Rays don’t currently have a lot of numbers in the rafters, that could change in the near future. Some of the key players from the 2008 team that reached the World Series are still active, which will delay a jersey retirement. Joe Maddon, who managed the team to three postseason berths and an American League pennant, is currently managing the Angels, but there’s no reason to believe his number won’t eventually be raised at the Trop.
The Rays don’t have any defined criteria that must be met for a number to be retired, but that could change as more players and coaches get honored. Once people begin to retire, the Rays will look at that person’s contributions to the franchise and what they contributed on the field.
Let’s take a look at who has their number hanging at Tropicana Field, and who could be next.
Wade Boggs, No. 12
Number retired: April 7, 2000
Boggs did most of his damage with the Red Sox and Yankees during his Hall of Fame career, but the third baseman had one of his most memorable moments as a member of the then-Devil Rays. On Aug. 7, 1999, he notched his 3,000th career hit, homering off Cleveland’s Chris Haney at Tropicana Field. Boggs was part of the first two teams in franchise history, retiring after the 1999 season. He also served as the team’s hitting coach in 2001.
Jackie Robinson, No. 42
Number retired: 1997
Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier by integrating the sport, was technically the first number retired by the organization. Once the Rays became a franchise in 1998, the No. 42 was already retired across baseball. Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Don Zimmer, No. 66
Number retired: April 6, 2015
Zimmer worked in professional baseball for 65 years of his life, spending the last 11 as the Rays’ senior baseball advisor. Zimmer also called the Tampa Bay area home since the 1950s.
Evan Longoria, No. 3
Seasons with Rays: 2008-17
Longoria might not be the next person to get his number retired by the Rays, because he still has plans of playing for a few more seasons. But once Longoria decides to call it a career, it’s almost certain that his No. 3 will go up in the rafters shortly after.
Longoria is the best player in the history of the organization and was the protagonist in Game 162 of 2011, one of the most memorable moments in franchise history. Over his time with the Rays, Longoria won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, was a three-time All-Star, received AL MVP Award votes in six seasons, won three AL Gold Glove Awards and leads the organization in basically every single statistic. Pretty solid résumé.
Joe Maddon, No. 70
Seasons with Rays: 2006-14
The culture that Maddon helped build during his time as the Rays’ skipper is something that is still felt throughout the entire organization. Maddon took on the challenge of managing a franchise that had yet to have a winning season and turned it around two seasons later. All the dance parties, the themed road trips and 754 wins later, Maddon's number should be retired once his baseball career is over.
Ben Zobrist, No. 18
Seasons with Rays: 2006-14
When you think of the Rays, one of the words that comes to mind is versatility. And that’s because of Zobrist. No, he wasn’t the first utility player in baseball, but Zobrist was the best the Rays have had, and one that changed the way players across the organization approached the game.
Since Zobrist, the Rays have prioritized players who can play multiple positions, which has resulted in a lot of success, especially over the last two seasons. Aside from that, Zobrist was a good player on the field, earning three All-Star selections while with the Rays and ranking third in franchise history in bWAR behind Longoria and Carl Crawford. Zobrist isn't a slam dunk to get his number retired, but he should be strongly considered.
The next retired number for the Rays might come down to timing. Zobrist appears to be headed to retirement, while Longoria and Maddon are still involved in the game. The Rays could decide to retire Zobrist’s number once he officially retires, or they could wait until Longoria is done playing in order to give him the honor.