Major League Baseball and its participating clubs have retired various uniform numbers over the course of time, ensuring that those numbers are never worn again and thus will always be associated with particular players or managers of note. The use of numbers on uniforms to better identify one player from another, and hence to boost sales of scorecards was tried briefly by the Cleveland Indians of 1916. The first team to permanently adopt the practice was the New York Yankees of 1929. By 1932, all 16 major league clubs were issuing numbers, and by 1937, the leagues passed rules requiring it.
The Yankees' original approach was to simply assign the numbers 1 through 8 to the regular starting lineup in their normal batting order. Hence, Babe Ruth wore number 3 and Lou Gehrig number 4. The first major leaguer whose number was retired was Gehrig, in July 1939, following his retirement due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which became known popularly as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Since then, over 150 other people have had their numbers retired, some with more than one team. This includes managers and coaches, as Major League Baseball is the only one of the major North American professional leagues in which the coaching staff wear the same uniforms as players. Three numbers have been retired in honor of people not directly involved on the playing field — all three for team executives. Some of the game's early stars, such as Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson, retired before numbers came into usage. Teams often celebrate their retired numbers and other honored people by hanging banners with the numbers and names. Early stars, as well as honored non-players, will often have numberless banners hanging along with the retired numbers. Because fewer and fewer players stay with one team long enough to warrant their number being retired, some players believe that getting their number retired is a greater honor than going into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ron Santo, upon his number 10 being retired on the last day of the 2003 regular season, enthusiastically told the Wrigley Field crowd as his #10 flag was hoisted, "This is my Hall of Fame!" However, Santo would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July 2012, nearly two years after his death, after being voted in by the Veterans Committee.
Retired numbers by team Edit
All of Major League BaseballEdit
42 — Jackie Robinson★ (1997)
(includes Boston and Milwaukee Braves)
(includes St. Louis Browns)
1 — Bobby Doerr★ (1988)
2 — Nellie Fox★ (1976)
1 — Fred Hutchinson (1965)
3 — Earl Averill★ (1975)
17 — Todd Helton (2014)
2 — Charlie Gehringer★ (1983)
5 — Jeff Bagwell★ (2007)
(includes Brooklyn Dodgers)
(includes original Washington Senators)
1 — Billy Martin (1986)
(includes Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics)
1 — Richie Ashburn★ (1979)
1 — Billy Meyer (1954)
1 — Ozzie Smith★ (1996)
(includes New York Giants)
- ★ Hall of Fame member
- * Aparicio's number was temporarily unretired with his approval for Omar Vizquel. Vizquel played the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the White Sox.
- †Team founder. The number represents the "26th man" — Major League Baseball rosters are limited to 25 players, except for games played on or after September 1, when rosters are expanded to 40.
- ‡Served as president, chairman, or CEO of the Cardinals from the team's purchase by Anheuser-Busch in 1953 until his death in 1989. The number represents his age at the time the number was retired in 1984.
- §The number 455 was retired in honor of the fans after the Indians sold out 455 consecutive games.
- ◊Team founder and former MLB Commissioner. Number selected symbolically.