Little help here, Bauxites ... is there a legitmate reason a player's uniform number might be used (after it is "retired") by someone OTHER that that specific retired player? (In other words, I am not looking for examples of players with retired numbers who came back to uniformed status, presumably either to manage or coach, if perhaps only in Spring Training?
I can think of at least two instances it has actually happened -- indeed, I expect most baseball fans can at least think of the first one I will mention -- but are there others? Read on and let everyone know of any other instances you can recall where this has already happened, or at least a situation (give a specific example if possible) where that legitimately COULD happpen.
The first example, of course ...
... deals with the only number retired by the entire sport, obviousl -- #42. Thanks to the greatness of Jackie Robinson, no one in MLB will ever be assigned this uniform number again. So I guess that expands the question from "when might a retired number be used again?" to "can a number be retired more than once? Yes, yes, I know, you can at least make a decent case that Jackie's 42 has already been retired thirty times, but that's not what I mean here.
Let's try this little quiz -- and if you know this (be honest!), I will take you to Dairy Queen for all you can eat five times (you'll see why that number matters in a moment) -- next time you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, that is. Here's the quiz -- name the first Cincinnati Reds catcher to have his uniform #5 retired? (Bonus -- if you can spell his first and last names without looking them up, I will buy you 300 Blizzards and 16 orders of french fries -- again, these number ARE relevant. though I admit they feel kind of random - see below).
You immediately thought of Hall of Famer (and arguably greatest catcher EVER) Johnny Bench, right? I know I did. But you know that's not right, because if it was, I wouldn't be offering the DQ smorgasboard, now would I (and it's hardly difficult to spell "Johnny" or "Bench," you know)?
The actual answer is none other than Willard Hershberger. Now, Willard was a fine player -- a .316 career hitter (though no power and very little speed) in parts of three seasons, 1938-40, but his playing career harldy merited the Hall of Fame or a uniform number retirement, I'd think. But apparently (and extremely unfortunately, Hershberger was the only active major league baseball player to commit suicide during a season, so the Reds officially retired his number. Msybe they officially changed their minds later -- I don't know, it doesn't seem like a team should be allowed to do that -- but at least by 1967, when Bench embarked on his HOF MLB career, I guess everyone had forgotten about the original #5 that was retired 27 years earlier.
Speaking of Hall of Fame catchers, to of the 10 or 15 best catchers ever, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra, both played for the Yankees, and both wore uniform #8 I am embarrassed to say I am not sure why ...
It happened AGAIN in Cinicinnati in 1997 (no not a suicide -- well, I guess if you want to be crass, there is at least a hint of career suicide associated with the guys' name(s) ... Pete Rose wore #14 as a Reds player and manager. Okay, Pete's career, alas, will be defined by far more than the #14 he wore -- but did you realize that anyone other than Pete Rose has worn that uniform number since the al-time hits leader left the game? Okay, that's no strictly true -- but somebody other than the all-time hits leader HAS word #14 for the Reds since then. It's just that it happened to also be a guy named Pete Rose Jr. -- th original #14's son.
I've heard other teams mention this might happen -- for instance, the Pirates were rumored to be holding a re-issue of #21, worn by HOF OF Roberto Clemente (did you know that the young Bob Clemente originally wore #13 for the Pirates in his rookie year?) ONLY in case his son, also named Roberto Clemente ever played for the Pirates. But the younger Clemente never played past A-ball and only made The Show as a broadcaster (they are not assigned uniform numbers, retired or otherwise), for among others, the Spanish version of MLB network and ESPN Deportes Radio.
So I guess if you are ever asked a riddle like, "What did Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente have in common?," that before you make an incredibly clever and ironic comment contrasting mission work with a gambling habit, you might just take a deep breath and exhale a massive "I know more than you do" response like, "Well, both were National League All-Star players in the 1960s and 1970s ...both spent lots of time playing in the outfield ... both won NL OF Gold Gloves in 1969-70 (though to be fair, those were Rose's only two, while Clemente won 12!) and both are memebrs of MLB's exlusive 3000 hit club (though to be fair. Rose is part of baseball's much MORE exclusive 4000-hit career hit club. Did you realize that Rose and Clemente have, respectively, historically the most and mathomatically the fewest possible career hits in those areas?)
Apparently, the now-Miami Marlins "retired" the uniform #5 in honor of then-Florida Marlins original president/COO Carl Barger (who apparently was a huge fan of Joe DiMaggio so Logan Morrison can wear it to honor his father Tom Morrison (who apparently idolized George Brett). Now, there is no question the these are two inner-circle Hall of Fame baseball players (they also both had brothers -- Joe D. had two -- who played in the major leagues (though non of Ken, Vince and Dom have had their uniform numbers retired - there has been talk by the Red Sox of retiring the younger (both not "better' as the old song suggested)-than his-brother-Joe Domonic DiMaggio's number, which was #7.), and at least arguably the two most notable players ever to wear that number (Calling Dan "Lobby of Numbers" McIlroy -- any thoughts here on the Fantastic Five?) - but because you "like" a player who has absolutely not a thing to do with your team's history -- and we have no hard evidence that outside 0f Spring Training, either Joe D. or Brett ever even visited Florida, much less contributed to the Marlins franchise, is at best a weak reason, and at workst, turly a craptastic reason - to retire a number for the entirety of a team's history on the planet.
"No other Florida Marlin will ever wear No. 5 Remember the original Florida Marlins team owner? You might have blovked this -- Wayne Huizenga was exactly the most popular professional sports executive to ever live. (Huizenga was no Art Modell, but he certainly wasn't exactly Bill Veeck either.) He promised during a ceremony before the Marlins' first game in franchise history that no player would wear that number in (and I quote here, which is important) "Florida Marlins history."
Why is that last truncated quote important? Because though the number has been unretired (is that a real word?) by the Marlins franchis, no Florida Marlin ever wore it, and none ever will -- as you have realized by now, the speicifcs of the quote matter because Logan Morrison plays LF for the MIAMI Marlins., you know, so Mr. Huizenga didn't eacly fib ...
So, my fellow Bauxites, are we missing anything? After all, I am much more the "Names" guy, while our own Dan "Magpie" McIlroy has created and instituted the Lobby of Numbers. Of course, ANY baseball fan knows something about numbers and statistics, so we are all invited to play -- who or what else really should be mentioned in this story? Or will need to be, someday? (Nned prompts or assistance, the full lists of every team's current uniform numbes are available, where else on baseballreference.com --
The Jays have only retired six uniform numbers (no including Robinson's 42 -- Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar, Dave Stieb, Joe Carter, George Bell, Cito Gaston -- none have the cache Of DiMaggio's (or even bench's) #5, but I think there would be little argument that these men are the most important -- and perhaps even best -- at their positions in a 35-year franchise history (at, of course, shortstop, second base, starting pitcher, iconic home-run hitter, MVP outifielder and ring-wearing manager. Will there be others from the current crew to see their digits retired?
T...T...T...Trivia, Retired Numbers Edition
- Three of the eight players to wear the uniform #8 and go on to have it retired by their team were catchers. As noted above, two of these were the Yankees Berra and Dickey. But who was the third? (A Canadian baseball website, really ought to get this one pretty easlu. Any Canadian "Kid" ought to know this ...)
- What is the lowest number to have never been retired by ANY team? (I figured it would be the aforementioned-almost-Clemente's number, the traditionally "unlucky" #13 -- which is almost certainly the least-commonly ISSUED uniform number in MLB history. But apparently, and I don't remember this, the Reds (they DO keep popping up here, don't they?) retired Dave Concepcion's number, (which was, obviously, #13)O five years ago. How did I miss this? Jays fans, if you don't remember Davey Shortstop, he was the aforementioned Tony Fernadez before Tony Fernandez was born.