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Fun With (Retired) Numbers

Who knew people liked wearing 4 and 5 so much?
Who knew people liked wearing 4 and 5 so much?

With today being an off day, and it being too early in the season for us to really have anything to write about on these worst of days, I decided to do a little research on retired numbers.  The tradition started with Lou Gehrig's number 4 in January of 1940 following his retirement.  Since then, 203 more numbers and names have been retired by the 30 franchises in Major League Baseball (30 of these are Jackie Robinson though, so alter the number if you'd like).  While looking all this up, I found some interesting things.  Also, if you haven't checked out the awesome graphics for retired numbers on the new and improved Baseball-Reference, get yourself over there.

  • The most common retired number in baseball (other than 42) is 5, having been retired nine times (Brooks Robinson, Carl Barger, Lou Boudreau, George Brett, Johnny Bench, Willard Hershberger, Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio, and Jeff Bagwell).
  • Until last season when the Astros gave Bagwell the honors, the number 4 was tied with 5 for top dog (Luke Appling, Earl Weaver, Duke Snider, Ralph Kiner, Lou Gehrig, Paul Molitor, Mel Ott, and Joe Cronin).
  • The Cincinnati Reds are not allowed to officially retire Pete Rose's number 14 due to his lifetime ban, but the only player to wear it since is his son Pete Rose Jr.
  • The Nationals decided not to continue honoring the five numbers they retired as the Expos.  The Montreal Canadiens have banners hanging from the rafters in the Bell Centre to honor Quebec's finest.
  • Including the Nationals stupidity, five teams have only retired Jackie Robinson's number.  The others are Arizona, Colorado, Seattle, and Toronto.
  • Everyone knows that the Yankees have the most retired numbers (17), but do you know who comes in second?  Three teams do actually.  The Giants, Cardinals, and Reds all have retired thirteen numbers/names. 
  • There are a combined six players and managers who have their names retired because they existed before numbers: Ty Cobb (DET), Grover Cleveland Alexander (PHI), Chuck Klein (PHI), Christy Mathewson (SF), John McGraw (SF), and Rogers Hornsby (STL).
  • Thirteen managers have had their numbers retired, but only ten teams have retired numbers for managers.  The Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, and Pirates have done so twice.  Casey Stengel is the only manager to have his number retired by two teams (NYY and NYM).
  • Five teams have honored owners or executives with retired numbers (FLA, LAA, SD,STL, WAS).
  • Seven teams have honored broadcasters (STL, SF, MIL, CIN, SD, DET, PHI).
  • The Indians retired number 455 for the fans to recognize their consecutive sell-out streak from 1995-2001.
  • Five teams have retired the same number twice.  Expect a sixth as soon as Mariano Rivera retires.

    1. The Chicago Cubs have retired 31 twice, both done last season to honor Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux.
    2. The Cincinnati Reds have retired 5 twice.  They originally retired it in 1940 after catcher Willard Hershberger tragically committed suicide after blaming himself for a loss to the Boston Bees.  Two years later the Reds unretired it, only to send it back in 1984 for Johnny Bench.
    3. The Montreal Expos retired 10 twice.  Once for Rusty Staub in 1993 and again for Andre Dawson in 1997.
    4. The New York Yankees double-retired 8 in 1972 to honor Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
    5. The St. Louis Cardinals are the only team to currently have 42 retired twice.  The first time was when the league retired it in 1997.  Then in 2006 they retired it again for Bruce Sutter.  

    There are fourteen retired numbers that have only been retired by one team each. They are: 12- Wade Boggs (TB), 13- Dave Concepcion (CIN), 15- Thurman Munson (NYY), 17- Dizzy Dean (STL), 22- Jim Palmer (BAL), 25- Jose Cruz (HOU), 39- Roy Campanella (LAD), 43- Dennis Eckersley (OAK), 45- Bob Gibson (STL), 50- Jimmie Reese (LAA), 53- Don Drysdale (LAD), 72- Carlton Fisk (CHW), 85- August Busch Jr. (STL), and 455- the Fans (CLE).