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Yanks lead way with legacy of retired numbers

Storied Bombers have honored most players and managers

The Yankees have announced plans to retire the numbers of Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams this season, bringing to 21 the number of Yanks players/managers who have had their numbers retired by the franchise. And that doesn't even include Derek Jeter, who retired at the end of last season having played more games (2,747) than any player in franchise history.

When they eventually retire No. 2 for Jeter, the Yankees will have retired every single-digit number.


The Yankees currently have 17 retired numbers, representing 18 franchise members (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey share No. 8). The Cardinals rank second among Major League teams with 12 retired numbers. The Giants have retired 11, and the Braves, Dodgers and White Sox have retired 10 apiece.

There are 10 franchises with three or fewer retired numbers in their history -- much less in one season. But then the Yanks have won more World Series championships (27) than those 10 teams combined (eight).

Video: Posada's number 20 will be retired by Yankees

In fairness, all 10 of those franchise are products of expansion, ranging from the Mets, who came into existence in 1962 and have retired only three numbers, to the Rays and D-backs, products of baseball's most recent expansion in 1998 and have retired one number each.

The Mariners, Marlins and Nationals have yet to retire a number, although the Montreal Expos had retired numbers of four players: Gary Carter (No. 8), Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub (both No. 10), and Tim Raines (No. 30). The Nationals did not carry them over to Washington.

The D-backs (Luis Gonzalez), Rockies (Todd Helton), Rays (Wade Boggs) and Blue Jays (Roberto Alomar) have retired one each, the Rangers (Nolan Ryan and Johnny Oates) two, and the Mets (Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel and Tom Seaver) and Royals (George Brett, Frank White and Dick Howser) have retired three each.

The question that is raised is: What qualifies a number to be retired?

The answer is it depends on the franchise.

With the addition of the three Yankees plus the White Sox plans to retire No. 14 in honor of Paul Konerko on May 23, there will be 179 retired numbers, 130 for members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Six of the 48 honorees not enshrined in Cooperstown have not been retired long enough to be on a Hall of Fame ballot yet -- Helton, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Konerko, Mariano Rivera and Posada.

Video: Braves Retired Number: No. 10, Chipper Jones

Ten of the retired Yankees numbers belong to individuals, including Posada, Pettitte and Williams, who aren't in Hall of Fame. That trio, however, is a significant part of Yanks history, which in the Bronx is what matters. Posada, Pettitte and Williams were members for much of the Yankees' 13-year postseason run from 1995-2007, which included four championships.

Williams is sixth all-time among Yankees with 2,076 games played, seventh with 287 home runs and third in franchise history with 121 postseason games. Posada is eighth all-time with 1,829 games played, 275 home runs and second with 125 postseason appearances. Pettitte is third all-time in both wins (219) and innings pitched (2,796 1/3) in Yanks history, and is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason innings (251 1/3), wins (18) and starts (40). Pettitte ranks behind only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231) on the Yankees' all-time win list

Video: Yankees to retire Bernie's number 51 in 2015

Posada, Pettitte and Williams were also homegrown Yankees. That may not be a requirement, but only three players who have had numbers retired by the franchise did not come up through the organization -- Roger Maris, Casey Stengel and Reggie Jackson.

Maris, Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Elston Howard, Ron Guidry, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte and Williams are the Yanks with retired numbers who don't have plaques in Cooperstown.

The Astros have retired nine numbers -- seven for players not in the Hall of Fame, second to the Yankees. Craig Biggio will be inducted in July and Nolan Ryan was inducted in 1999. The non-Hall of Fame numbers retired by the Astros were for Jeff Bagwell, Jim Wynn, Jose Cruz, Jim Umbricht, Mike Scott, Don Wilson and Larry Dierker.

Video: Astros Retired Number: No. 34, Nolan Ryan

Ryan has the distinction of having his numbers retired by the most teams -- the Astros, Angels and Rangers. The Mets, the team that originally signed Ryan, have not retired his number.

The Yankees and Cardinals are the only teams to retire No. 42 not only for Jackie Robinson, for whom the No. 42 has been retired by every franchise. The Yanks also retired it for Rivera, and the Cards for Bruce Sutter.

In addition to the four Expos, there are two other numbers that have been un-retired. The Reds retired No. 5 for Willard Hershberger, a backup catcher who committed suicide in 1940, but un-retired the number two years later. The Reds have since retired No. 5 for Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.

Video: Reds Retired Number: No. 5, Johnny Bench

The Marlins retired No. 5 on the day of their first regular-season game, April 5, 1993, in honor of their original club president, Carl Barger, who died during the Winter Meetings the previous December. The franchise, however, un-retired the number on Feb. 11, 2012, after changing their name from the Florida Marlins to Miami Marlins.

Why the No. 5?

Barger's favorite player growing up was Joe DiMaggio -- a Yankee.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for
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