By In Baseball

Yankees Retired Numbers

You may have heard … it looks like the New York Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s number. That is absolutely the right thing to do — heck Billy Martin’s number is retired — and it brings us just a little big closer to one of the cooler number things in sports: Very soon the first 10 numbers will be retired by the New York Yankees.

In case you have forgotten the list:

No. 1: Billy Martin. Number was retired in 1986 more out of emotion, I think, than anything else. Ralph Houk won a World Series as manager and his number isn’t retired. But it’s also true that no player or manager ever wore the Yankees pinstripes more proudly. Martin was a Yankees World Series hero as a player, and he led the Yankees to a pennant and a World Series championship as a manager, in addition to being fired 800 million times.

No. 2: Derek Jeter. Will be retired 12 minutes after he retires.

No. 3: Babe Ruth. Baseball’s all-time No. 3 hitter. Baseball’s all-time everything, really. Retired June, 13, 1948. The famous picture of Babe Ruth leaning on his bat comes from that day. You probably know this, but Ruth gave the bat to Bob Feller, and it is on display at the Bob Feller Museum in Iowa.

No. 4: Lou Gehrig. Retired July 4, 1939, the day he announced that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

No. 5: Joe DiMaggio. Retired April 18, 1952. I really think they should have retired it in 1956.

No. 6: Here’s Joe Torre’s number, squeezed beautifully between DiMag and the Mick. It’s almost as if they KNEW he would become an all-time great manager and have his number retired.

No. 7: George Costanza’s future child. And Mickey Mantle. Retired June 8, 1969.

No. 8: Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. This was an interesting one. The Yankees did not retire Dickey’s number when he retired in 1946. Instead, two years later, they gave it to a young catcher named Yogi (up to that point, Berra had worn No. 38 and No. 35). So, two of the greatest catchers in baseball history wore No. 8 for the Yankees. In 1972, the Yankees decided to retire the number for Yogi, but they couldn’t leave out Dickey. So they retired the number in both names.

No. 9: Roger Maris. He was sick and would die eighteen months after having his number retired in 1984. But he was at the stadium on Old Timer’s Day wearing No. 9.

No. 10: Phil Rizzuto in 1985. Scooter, as a player, announcer and icon you could argue convincingly that Rizzuto and Yogi are the two most beloved figures in Yankees history.

The Yankees actually have retired eight more numbers: No. 15 (Thurman Munson); No. 16 (Whitey Ford); No. 23 (Donnie Baseball); No. 32 (Elston Howard); No. 37 (Casey Stengel); No. 42 (The Great Rivera); No. 44 (The Straw That Stirred the Drink) and No. 49 (Ron Guidry).

But it is filling up those first 10 numbers that is really cool. There’s really nothing else quite like that in sports.

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55 Responses to Yankees Retired Numbers

  1. P.J. says:

    It’s Costanza

  2. Dennis_H says:

    The Gator was #49, not #45. Otherwise, nice article!

  3. Mark Colone says:

    Really, Joe was just keeping it warm for Roy White. No one Yankee wore it longer and did so with complete class. He made me a Yankees’ fan for life. As for Jeter’s #2, I like the “12 minutes” remark, but like Costanza I may take the under (and 7).

  4. Scott says:

    In 2100 there will be a Yankee wearing a 3-digit number.

  5. Brian says:

    Let’s not forget 51 has not been given out since Bernie retired and 21 was given out twice in one season to Morgan Ensberg and LaTroy Hawkins in their brief Yankee stints…they were boo’d simply because of they wore 21 and both changed numbers. Other than that it’s only been for O’Neill since 94. My friends give me a hard time because of the number of Yankee retired numbers but if these guys had their Yankee careers for anyone else that team would have retired the number as well.

    • Andrew says:

      It seems like overkill at first blush, but when you think about it its actually pretty justified. #’s 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and both 8’s are no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers. #10, while not at that slam dunk HOF level, was a Hall of Fame shortstop for multiple championship teams, and then had a second career as a beloved Yankees announcer for decades. I think the only ones you could quibble with (in the first 10) are #’s 1 and 9…and even then, you could see their numbers being retired on almost any other team. Maris won back to back MVPs and had a record-breaking season for the ages, while Martin was a pretty good player and managed the team in 5 separate terms.

  6. Colin M says:

    The Montreal Candiens have a similar history of retired numbers, missing only #6 & 8 in the first 10.
    #1 Jacques Plante
    #2 Doug Harvey
    #3 Emile Bouchard
    #4 Jean Beliveau
    #5 Bernie Geoffrion
    #7 Howie Morenz
    #9 Maurice Richard
    #10 Guy Lafleur
    #12 Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer
    #16 Henri Richard and Elmer Lach
    #18 Serge Savard
    #19 Larry Robinson
    #23 Bob Gainey
    #29 Ken Dryden
    #33 Patrick Roy
    #99 Wayne Gretzky (league honour)
    There is definitely a correlation between championships and great players. The Celtics most likely have a similar history of retired numbers.

    • Ian R. says:

      The Celtics have retired 21 numbers, the most in any major pro sport. They’ve only hit 5 of the first 10, though, and oddly enough two of those are for guys who didn’t actually wear numbers. #1 and #2 are retired in honor of team founder Walter Brown and legendary coach Red Auerbach because of their status as the most and second-most important Celtics of all time.

      • Ian R. says:

        Another odd note about the Celtics: Jim Loscutoff, a great power forward in the ’50s and ’60s, asked the team to NOT retire his #18 so that another player could wear it; they retired a “Loscy” jersey instead. #18 was ultimately later retired in honor of Dave Cowens.

        Also, they’ve retired all the numbers from 14 to 25 except 20, which seems like a funny little run. When #34 is retired in honor of Paul Pierce, they’ll have retired 31 through 35 as well.

      • Colin M says:

        Yes not many in the first 10, but they are only missing #20 from 14-25 which is pretty impressive. #18 is retired twice as well, for Dave Cowen and Jim Luscutoff; who requesting his number remain active for other players.

      • Is there any truth to the rumor that the Celtics retired the number of Milton Horowitz, their first ball boy? It seems true since they’ve retired numbers for just about everyone else that passed through.

        • Ian R. says:

          The Celtics have honored 20 players with number retirement. Of those 20:

          Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Bill Sharman, Ed Macauley, Frank Ramsey, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird are all in the Hall of Fame as players. That’s 14 of the 20 right there.

          Satch Sanders and Don Nelson are also in the Hall, though not as players. Jo Jo White is frequently discussed as a candidate for future Hall of Fame induction.

          The remaining three retired numbers are Jim Loscutoff (though his #18 wasn’t actually retired), Cedric Maxwell and Reggie Lewis. I suppose one could make a case that they weren’t really worthy of the honor, but Loscy was a key contributor on seven championship teams and Maxwell was a Finals MVP.

          Oh, and the remaining two retired numbers are for the founder of the franchise and the greatest coach in team history.

          The Celtics have retired a lot of numbers, but that’s chiefly because they’ve had a lot of players deserve number retirement. I don’t think they’ve been especially indiscriminate about it.

          (Oh, and I haven’t seen any evidence for the ball boy story.)

    • worried secularist says:

      Toe Blake wore #6 for the Habs for many years and then was a multi-Stanley Cup winner as coach. Should be retired, Best player to wear #8 was probably Doug Riseborough, but he’s not at that level.

  7. Mark Daniel says:

    Well, they have 1-10 and 15-16. What about 11, 12, 13 and 14? ARod is 13, would they retire his?

  8. Logan says:

    Seems like college basketball would be the most likely to run out of numbers. They only use the digits 0,1,2,3,4 and 5, so there are only 36 number possibilities (if you include 0). According to Wikipedia, Duke has already retired 13 of their 36 numbers. If they have a 15 man roster (13 scholarships plus a couple walk-ons), that doesn’t leave many spares.

  9. berkowit28 says:

    11 through 14 are going to be prime numbers in future, given only to superstars with a chance at being retired someday.

  10. Brent says:

    11 and 13 have always been prime numbers, but it will take some interesting math to make 12 and 14 prime numbers as well (sorry a little math humor to lighten up the blog)

  11. I like the Lakers thought process for retired numbers. Wilt, Baylor, West, Kareem, Magic, Shaq, Chick Hearn, Worthy (not a HOFer somehow yet, though was part of the Top-50 all time), Wilkes, Goodrich (very underrated and is in the HOF.. and was actually the team’s leading scorer on the West/Chamberlain championship team & the three years following). All HOFers except Worthy, who will be some day. I don’t much see the point of retiring the numbers of “Very Good” players.

    • ksbeck76 says:

      I couldn’t disagree more – retired numbers aren’t a compendium of the Hall of Fame players who have played for a franchise, or even the best players that played for that franchise. Rather, they recognize those players (or managers, announcers, executives, etc.) who meant the most to the fans and the team, rather that be for excellence, heart, hustle, cool nicknames, etc. As an example, the Houston Astros (the team of my youth) has retired the following numbers:

      #5 Jeff Bagwell
      #7 Craig Biggio
      #24 Jimmy Wynn
      #25 Jose Cruz
      #32 Jim Umbricht
      #33 Mike Scott
      #34 Nolan Ryan
      #40 Don Wilson
      #49 Larry Dierker

      There’s only one HOFer on the list (although hopefully a couple more soon), but I wouldn’t argue with any of the selections. They all represented something important to the franchise fans and tell a story about what it means to be a fan of the team.

      • That makes sense if you’re the Astros, I guess, but not the Lakers. I don’t understand why teams like the Yankees and Cletics hand out retired jerseys like Halloween candy though.

      • Bill Caffrey says:

        The Mets, who began play the same year as the Astros, have gone quite the opposite way. They have only retired the number of one player, Tom Seaver, #41. They have also retired #37 for their first manager, Casey Stengel, and #14 for the manager who led them to their first World Championship, Gil Hodges. They also have not given #24 to anyone since Willie Mays, although they not retired it.

        This speaks to two points. First, the Mets have by far the most stringent policy in MLB in deciding to retire numbers. Second, although many great players have played for the Mets, the Mets have never had a truly great player spend even 85% of their career with the Mets. Even Tom Seaver spent nearly 7 seasons with other teams.

        • Ian R. says:

          Do they? The Red Sox have a pretty stringent policy: 10 years with the team, must be in the Hall of Fame. Even WITH that policy, they’ve yet to retire Wade Boggs’ number.

          There are rumblings in Boston that the team will change that policy, and they’ve already made an exception for Johnny Pesky, but for now it’s the most stringent in the league.

        • Se.W. says:

          Pretty sure Rickey Henderson wore 24 for the Mets. Also, can’t forget about Kelvin Torve in 1990

    • brian says:

      The Red Sox only retire numbers of HOFers that were with the team for 10+ years. The one exceptioin being Johnny Pesky who basically spent his entire life with the team.

      #1 Bobby Doer
      #4 Joe Cronin
      #6 Johnny Pesky
      #8 Yaz
      #9 Ted Williams
      #14 Jim Rice
      #27 Carlton Fisk
      #42 Jackie Robinson

      • Josh L says:

        Those rules are going to get bent at some point. 45 is going to get retired despite not having 10 years or retiring as a member of the team. 34 isn’t likely to make the Hall, but it’s probably a lock to be retired.

    • Danny says:

      James Worthy was elected to the HOF in 2003. I believe it was his 3rd or 4th year of eligibility.

  12. Carl says:

    Hi Joe,

    I rememer at the time Murray Chass claiming that #9 should be co-retired (like #8) for Greg Nettles.

    QQ. Is it possible/legal for a player (David Wells type) to have an undefined number such as Square Root of 3, in homage to Ruth? I can even imagine an Al Hrabosky type in promo’s asking fans to come see the Radical One.

    • Karyn says:

      You’re just makin’ stuff up now–next you’ll be talking about “imaginary numbers”!

      (said in Homer Simpson voice)

  13. Ed says:

    I am just not a fan of retiring numbers. I think teams should retire names. The Yankees will promise never to sign another player named Mickey Mantle and then you hang a sign with Mickey Mantle’s name on it.

  14. BobDD says:

    Babe retired 1948? I can’t even figure out where a typo could change it to something that made sense. OK, do I win a car or something for finding this?

  15. Phil says:

    One year, I’d like to see the Mariners retire every single Seattle Pilots number. (The Mariners can keep on using them, though.)

  16. Dave Gilland says:

    Ruth actually borrowed the bat from Feller for the picture. It already belonged to Rapid Robert. You are correct that it is in the Feller museum in Van Meter, Ia.

  17. Lawhamel says:


    00 Robert Parish
    1 Walter Brown (first owner)
    2 Red Auerbach
    3 Dennis Johnson
    6 Bill Russell
    10 Jo Jo White
    14 Bob Cousy
    15 Tommy Heinson
    16 Satch Sanders
    17 John Havlicek
    18 Dave Cowens/Bailey Howell
    19 Don Nelson
    21 Bill Sharman
    22 Ed McCauley
    23 Frank Ramsey
    24 Sam Jones
    25 KC Jones
    31 Cedric Maxwell
    32 Kevin McHale
    33 Larry Bird
    35 Reggie Lewis

  18. TWolf says:

    Ralph Houk won two World Series, in 1961 and 1961. He just wasn’t colorful like Billy Martin

  19. Brent says:

    The Cardinals are pretty stingy too, considering their successful history. They have only bent the must be a HOFer rule one time and have left off some guys who are HOFers:

    #1 Ozzie Smith
    #2 Red Schoendienst
    #6 Stan Musial
    #9 Enos Slaughter
    #10 Tony LaRussa
    #14 Ken Boyer (the only non HOFer)
    #17 Dizzy Dean
    #20 Lou Brock
    #24 Whitey Herzog
    #42 Jackie and Bruce Sutter
    #45 Bob Gibson
    #85 Augie Busch (OK, he isn’t a HOF either but his name is on the stadium

    They also have a flag flying in the retired numbers section with the initials RH (Rogers Hornsby), becuase he never had a number.

    If the Cardinals were the Yankees, I would think they probably would have retired #3 (Frankie Frisch), #4 (Jim Bottomley/Marty Marion), #7 Ducky Medwick, #10 (pre LaRussa) Johnny Mize, #16 Jesse Haines, #23 Ted Simmons, #51 Willie McGee. But they don’t seem to think that marginal HOFers/Hall of the Very Good really need their numbers retired. I do think they might end up retiring #4 (Yadier Molina) and #5 (Pujols) someday.

  20. The Dallas Cowboys don’t officially retire any numbers, but only put people in the Ring of Honor. Bob Hayes and Emmitt Smith both wore 22, Chuck Howley and Randy White 54. They’ve had two really good 88s (Pearson/Irvin) and Dez Bryant wears it now. All that being said, no one has worn 12 since Staubach retired and and 74 is effectively retired (Lilly).

  21. Richard says:

    For a pleasant diversion, come up with a list of greatest players to wear every uniform number from 0 to 100. Or the people who made that number famous….

    Don’t forget:

    00 (Double Zero) – Mr. Met. Baseball’s first mascot
    1/8 – Eddie Gaedel, St Louis Browns
    1A – Coaltown. Stablemate of Citation, wore this number while finishing second to him in the 1948 Kentucky Derby.
    1 1/2 – Robert Merrill, baritone. Wore a uniform with this number when singing the National Anthem at Yankee games.

  22. Matt says:

    Did you know the Yankees were the first team to put numbers on their jersey’s. And the number was based on the hitters spot in the batting order. That is why Babe wore # 3 and Gehrig wore # 4.

  23. Scott says:

    For what it’s worth, the Yankees didn’t retire 42 for Rivera, they retired it for Jackie Robinson. Makes me wonder if they’ll come up with a ceremony for Rivera in a few years.

  24. Wilbur says:

    It may be in Feller’s museum, but it was Eddie Robinson’s bat.

  25. As a kid, m favorite player was Clete Boyer, Yankees, Number 6. Forget Torre, they are retiring Clete’s number.

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