Let’s talk about retired uniform numbers.
It’s a pretty significant honor for any professional athlete regardless of sport. One’s legacy is such that their number shall be taken out of circulation and never to be worn again. Be it great individual performance or several championships, or both, a select few earn this slice of immortality.
That is, unless you play for the Yankees. Twenty-seven World Series championships means several greats passing through Yankee Stadium. New York has retired a ridiculous 22 numbers, more than any professional team. The Cardinals are next behind them with 14 of their own.
So why do we bring this up? Well, two reasons. First, shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe made headlines when he switched from No. 77 to No. 11, formerly of the beloved Brett Gardner.
The second reason, and the bigger one, is a bit more bizarre. Per Brendan Kuty of The Athletic, the Yankees have actually spoken to Major League Baseball about coaches and managers not wearing numbers anymore. The reasoning is simple and sound enough: Few baseball managers actually wear full uniforms anymore.
If you think this reeks of overcompensation, it does. It’s not a bad idea but there are other ways. Coaches and players sharing numbers, college-style, is a pretty sound idea and a good jumping-off point.
But instead, what if the Yankees just swallowed their pinstriped pride, ripped the Band-Aid off, and actually un-retired some numbers in Monument Park? We’ve discussed this before and the Yankees need to be more aggressive now. There are too many retired numbers.
Let’s start with Roger Maris’ No. 9. He was only good for three of his seven years with the Yankees and is only honored so because he hit 61 home runs in 1961. Aaron Judge is the new single-season home run king and while it’d be controversial, it’d at least get the Yankees a single digit back.
Moving on, what about Phil Rizzuto’s No. 10? Sure, he was a fun and popular broadcaster. But as a player? Rizzuto is basically Isiah Kiner-Falefa with an MVP trophy and several World Series rings. Reggie Jackson’s No. 44 was only retired as Mr. October’s way of thumbing his nose at the Oakland A’s, with whom he spent the prime of his career.
Ready for the worst of them all? Ron Guidry’s No. 49 is retired because of literally one crazy good season in 1978. One. There’s no way the standard for retiring a number has fallen so low, except nobody seems to have told the Yankees.
There is no one right way to fix this, but there are several wrong ways. People will be upset regardless of decision.
But at the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for the teams involved. If coaches and managers really don’t want numbers anymore, great. Let it go and free up some options for players.
And if unretiring a few jerseys and dealing with the stormy aftermath is also an option, all the better.
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