I was going to write a column looking at 2020, and look to what we can expect in the future, but that will have to wait.
For this column is to honor the past.
Today, the Yankees announced that #51 for Bernie Williams will be retired on May 24 (I’ll be there that day. I was there for #23, Don Mattingly and for #42, Mariano Rivera). On August 22nd they will retire the number of #20, Jorge Posada (I think I have to work that day) and on August 23rd they will retire #46 for Andy Pettitte (I will be there for that one).
In addition, on Old-Timer’s Day this year, Willie Randolph will join recent legends Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Goose Gossage by getting a plaque in Monument Park (no retired number).
No word on when Jeter’s #2 gets retired.
So the Yanks are going to have a serious problem. Once Jeter’s number is retired, that will be 20 retired numbers. Now, there are a few I believe should NOT be retired. I know I’m opening a can of worms here, but here goes. Should these numbers be retired? For the way things are going, the Yanks are 1) going to look like a football team with #82 playing CF, or 2) need to go to 1A, 2A, 3A, etc.
#1 Billy Martin (I believe it shouldn’t be retired. Billy was a major factor in three WS titles as a player, and hit .333 in the WS. He was WS MVP in 1953 when he had 12 hits in six games. He made a WS saving catch in Game 7 of the 1952 Series. He managed the Yanks to a WS title—-but in comparison, Ralph Houk managed the yanks to TWO WS titles, and Houk’s #35 won’t be retired —. Billy was a .257 career hitter. He wasn’t even the best player to wear #1 (Earle Combs, a HOF, was). No).
#2 Derek Jeter (Not officially retired yet). 3465 hits and 1st ballot HOF screams yes.
#3 Babe Ruth. Ummmm…. greatest Player ever. Yes.
#4 Lou Gehrig. Yes.
#5 Joe DiMaggio. Yes.
#6 Joe Torre. Interesting question. The Yanks have so many numbers retired, that you have to ask, players only? Or include managers. If you include managers, then Torre is a Yes. If players only, no. (BTW, Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy never wore a number).
#7 Mickey Mantle. Yes.
#8 Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. Both Yes.
#9 Roger Maris. No. Honor Roger’s 1961 with a plaque, but not the number. .260 career hitter. GREAT for 1960 and 1961, very good in 1962, above average 1963-1964, not even average in 1965-1966. Sweeney Murti argues that Graig Nettles, who also wore #9, should get a plaque in Monument Park. Speaking of, Willie Randolph is getting a plaque. How about Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon getting plaques? Both are in the HOF. Willie won’t be. Love Willie, but….
#10. Phil Rizzuto. No. Plaque yes, honoring his 56 or so years of service, but not retire the number.
#13… just kidding. Based on his suspension and turbulent relations with the Yankees, I’ll be shocked if the Yanks honor A-Rod.
#15 Thurman Munson. Yes. Esp. considering the circumstances of his passing.
#16 Whitey Ford. Yes.
#20 Jorge Posada. No. No Offense to Jorge, but unless you are HOF, it’s hard to justify retiring the number.
#23. Don Mattingly. No. I was there when they retired his number. I loved Donnie, but is he more worthy or better than two people who each got a plaque but whose numbers aren’t retired? O’Neill or Tino? I think not. Also, no HOF. Should have the same treatment as Paul and Tino. Plaque, no retired #. Hey, with so many retired numbers, we have to be tough here.
#32. Elston Howard. Plaque yes, retired number, no. 1st black on the Yanks, 1st AL Black MVP, but not a HOF. Tough call, but no.
#37 Casey Stengel. See Torre above. If you want players only, no. If you include managers, yes.
#44 Reggie. No. Only was with the Yanks 1977-1981, not long enough. Plaque yes, retired number, no.
#46 Andy Pettitte. Close call. No. Chuck Knoblauch, who is in the Mitchell report along with Andy (HGH) blasts the selection of Pettitte. I’d argue yes, but it’s a close call. By the way, Red Ruffing #15 and Allie Reynolds #22 both have plaques, no retired number. Of course, #15 is retired for Munson.
#49 Ron Guidry. No. Tough Call. I loved the Gator, but no HOF and not even 200 wins.
#51 Bernie. Tough call, but no HOF. The only difference between him getting his # retired and Paul and Tino getting just plaques is that Bernie spent 16 years as a Yankee while Paul and Tino spent considerable time with other teams (Cincy and Seattle).
So I eliminated 10 numbers, 12 if you think players only should have the numbers retired. This isn’t to disrespect the players whose numbers I want to “unretire” but to state which I think should be retired vs. those I think the Yanks went overboard on.
The Yanks could have a problem in years to come. Hopefully I am alive to see it. It means I would have lived through one more dynasty.