Retiring uniform numbers
Andy Pettite‘s son Josh broke the news this weekend that the Yankees will retire #46 this summer in honor of his dad.
Pettitte’s 219 wins rank third on the Yankees’ all-time leaderboard, behind Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231), but ahead of Ron Guidry, who had his number retired in 2003. (It’s interesting to note that Ruffing and Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez, who falls between Pettitte and Guidry on the Yankees’ all-time win list, have not been honored with retired numbers – though Ruffing’s #15 was later retired for Thurman Munson.)
Pettite’s 2020 strikeouts are the most in Yankee history, though his 3.94 ERA ranks 41st among Yankee pitchers who made at least 100 starts. And Yankee fans won’t be likely to forget that Pettitte was part of five World Series championship teams.
On the other hand, Pettitte’s admitted use of HGH seems like something many Yankee fans are willing to forget, though not all of his former teammates are ready to let it go.
Leaving aside the cheating issue, it’s interested to reflect on the philosophies of New York’s two teams. The Yankees are quick to retire uniform numbers to honor popular players – in addition to Pettitte’s #46, they will also retire Jorge Posada’s #20 and Bernie Williams’ #51 this season.
Not including the MLB-wide retirement of #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson’s legacy, there are 17 uniform numbers retired by the Yankees, though the team no longer seems to keep an updated list on its website. It is widely expected that Derek Jeter‘s #2 will also be retired.
Across town, the Mets have retired three uniform numbers since 1962 and only one – Hall of Famer Tom Seaver‘s #41 – honors a player’s legacy. Casey Stengel‘s #37 was retired in a small, private ceremony shortly after the team’s original 75-year-old manager was forced to step down as the result of a broken hip. Gil Hodges‘ #14 was formally retired one year after his death. Hodges, the popular manager who guided the Mets to their first World Series title, passed away of a heart attack while he was still serving as the team’s skipper in 1972.
Many fans keep calling for the organization to honor the legacy of the 1986 team by retiring the numbers of its stars – co-Captains Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Younger fans push for the team to retire Mike Piazza‘s #31 in honor of the best-hitting catcher who’s yet to make it into the Hall of Fame. Some older fans want to see Ed Kranepool‘s #7 retired to honor his longevity.
At one time, I was part of the group that wanted the Mets to honor our 1980s stars. Now I’m beginning to appreciate their more exclusive approach – I have confidence that Piazza’s number will be retired after he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Met, since that seems to be the criteria these days. Retired numbers should be something really special for the legendary figures in a team’s history.
We’ve got the Mets Hall of Fame to recognize fan-favorites (though that committee needs to do a better job finding players to induct – after honoring John Franco in 2012 and Piazza in 2013, they didn’t choose anyone last year and have been silent so far this off-season.)
But I’m interested in what you think: should the Yankees retire Andy Pettitte’s #46? Which number-retiring philosophy do you prefer? And, I never thought I’d suggest this, but should the Yankees actually have even more uniform numbers retired to honor the Hall of Famers from the earlier years of their history?