stadium, arena and baseball stadium, you can find the numbers immortalized in history. They are hung from rafters, painted on exterior walls, set in
corridors and marked by statues, busts and plaques.
The retirement of shirt numbers has always been seen as a mark of honour, respect and gratitude to the players, coaches and staff who make an organization great. In some cases, it’s a testament to how individuals can transform an entire league.
However, removing numbers defeats its own purpose.
What’s honorable about putting a number on a shelf so it gets dusty over time, only to pull it out one day a year to remember why it’s there in the first place?
You could say it feels
sacrilege to allow another player to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 or another hockey star to try to fill the skates of Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 or a Laker to don No. 8 or 24 after everything Kobe Bryant has accomplished.
There will never be another Robinson, another Gretzky or another Bryant. I doubt anyone would dispute that.
best way to honor these players is to continue to build on the legacy they created?
Did the Yankees Hall of Famer closer to Mariano Rivera wearing 42 did something to tarnish the reputation
Has Robinson succeeded in breaking the color barrier? No. Instead, another chapter has been added to the
historical past of the number. Rivera was an extension of everything Robinson
The only reason Mario Lemieux wore his now iconic 66 was because Gretzky’s number had been retired. Would Super Mario have done something to hurt the legend and lore behind The Great One’s #99? Or would it be an unbelievable story to say that two of hockey’s most prolific players wore the same number? Not only would they have worn the same number, but the youngest would have done so to honor his hero.
It’s a notion that so many sports fans and
Athletes often choose their numbers as children, basing their choice on their heroes. They spend hours, days, weeks and years learning to swing like them, shoot like them or throw like them. They want to be like them.
This number becomes part of their identity, as much as it makes them
And, if they manage to beat the odds and make it to the major leagues, they are forced to trade the
number that they kept all their life for
something new that doesn’t make as much sense to them and their journey.
Center fielder Willie Mays reveled in the other players
displaying his number. He used to buy heaps of his own shirts to swap with visiting players as well.
Mays set off a chain reaction of big names to wear the 24.
Outfielder Rickey Henderson, who played for nine teams during his 27-year career, wore number 24 whenever he could to honor Mays. Henderson went on to inspire another Hall of Famer
outfielder, Ken Griffey Jr., to sport the number during his 13 years as a Seattle Mariner.
For me to see a lasting effect on
generations of players like that has so much more impact than looking at your idle number.
Plus, there’s a practical aspect to it. There is only a limited number of numbers that can be used – 99 if we are
The Yankees no longer have single-digit numbers in rotation, and No. 10 is also off the books. In total, the Pinstripes have retired 21 numbers for 22 players – No. 8 has been retired for Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.
Chicago Bears and New York Giants lead NFL with 14 numbers retired each, while Stanley Cup 24 times
The Canadiens have removed 15 numbers from the rotation.
Some teams and leagues are stingy with retiring
numbers – the NBA and NFL don’t have a single
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t officially retired a number from the rotation, but it’s become an unspoken franchise rule to steer clear of specific jerseys. No Steelers player has worn Terry Bradshaw’s number 12 since his retirement. Will Ben Roethlisberger’s No. 7 receive the same treatment?
The Pittsburgh Penguins only retired Lemieux’s number 66 and Michel Brière’s number 21.
What will they do when the Sidney Crosby era officially comes to an end?
Will only Sid’s number 87 be immortalized in the rafters of PPG Paints Arena? Or is the
the organization treats the core as a singular unit and also removes Evgeni Malkin’s 71 and Kris Letang’s 58? Do we include fan favorite Marc-Andre Fleury’s number 29 for his historic Black and Gold career before he sacrificed himself in the expansion draft?
With the Penguins struggling so far, there’s a good chance the three props from Crosby’s reign in Pittsburgh will get the Jaromír Jágr treatment and be kept out of the rafters.
It’s not even like deleting numbers is an ancient practice.
The Buffalo Sabers announced Friday that they will retire goaltender Ryan Miller’s number 30. The funny story is that Miller wore number 39 at Michigan State and made the switch to Buffalo because guard Dominik Hasek already had the number in the rafters at KeyBank Center. .
I was also always told growing up that you play for the team on the front, not the number or name on the back of your shirt.
This is perhaps hypocritical compared to my previous statement about the numbers being sentimental for young athletes. Athletes become attached to the numbers they wear season after season, but ultimately it doesn’t matter which number you call yours. It’s about how you help your team win games, how you positively impact the league/sport, and how you make your community a better place.
These things can be honored and celebrated without taking the numbers off the board for future talent.
The number on the back of a jersey does not define a player or a career, but it can add to a tradition of success between generations; rather than being a number to watch during games as fans try to figure out who it belonged to and why it’s there in the first place.