Retired Numbers: New York Yankees

(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)

The New York Yankees might take a while. The Yankees have officially retired 20 numbers, including one twice. They are also one of the only teams to retire number 42 for a player who actually played for them. In addition to the officially retired numbers, there are two numbers that are unofficially retired.

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Billy Martin, 1

Martin played for the Yankees for seven years. He managed the team in parts of eight seasons across five separate stints, leading the team to the World Series title in 1977.

Martin is the only Yankee to have his number retired for his service as both a player and a manager, although he really wasn’t good enough as a player to deserve it.

No one has worn the number 1 since Martin last wore it in 1988 (two years after it had been retired), but between Martin’s departure from the team as a player in 1957 and his arrival for the first of five stints as manager in 1975, it was worn by Bobby Richardson and Bobby Murcer.

Here is a video of Martin’s last ejection as a manager in 1988, followed by an interview with Roy Firestone:

Babe Ruth, 3, and Lou Gehrig, 4

You would think the Yankees would have put Ruth’s number 3 on ice as soon as he took it off in 1934, but uniform numbers were new back then and apparently it didn’t occur to anyone.

Between 1934 and when they retired the number two months before Ruth’s death in 1948, it was worn by George Selkirk, Bud Metheny, Roy Weatherly, Eddie Bockman, Frank Colman, Allie Clark, and Cliff Mapes.

All seven of those players wore the number after the Yankees retired Gehrig’s number 4 in 1939, so the team was clearly aware of the concept but kept issuing Ruth’s number right up until they retired it.

Joe DiMaggio, 5

Thanks to World War II and a relatively early retirement, DiMaggio played only 13 seasons in the majors, all with the Yankees. He won three MVP Awards and his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is still a record. He missed his age 28-30 seasons in World War II but still had 2,214 hits, 361 home runs, and 1,537 RBIs.

No one has worn DiMaggio’s number 5 since his retirement in 1951, but the Yankees gave it to Nick Etten from 1943-1945 while Joltin’ Joe was in World War II. DiMaggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.

Mickey Mantle, 7

The Yankees went straight from DiMaggio to Mantle, more than three decades of Hall of Fame greatness in center field. Mantle also won three MVP Awards, including 1956 when he won the Triple Crown with a .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBIs.

In a career that still has people wondering what might have been without injuries, he hit 536 home runs and finished his career with a .298/.421/.557 batting line.

Mantle retired in 1968, and the Yankees retired his number 7 in 1969. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, both 8

Dickey batted .313 .382 .486 with 202 home runs in his 17-year career spent entirely with the Yankees, then coached and managed the team after his retirement.

Berra won three MVP Awards and hit 358 home runs in his 18 years with the Yankees as a player, and he also managed and coached the team after his playing days.

After Berra’s Hall of Fame career came to an end and the Yankees decided to retire his number, they decided that they should also retire the number of the Hall of Fame catcher who wore number 8 before Berra did, so they retired the number for both Berra and Dickey in the same ceremony in 1972.

Between Dickey and Berra, number 8 was worn by Aaron Robinson. It was also worn by Johnny Lindell while Dickey was in the service.

Roger Maris, 9

Maris did not play with the Yankees for very long, but his seven seasons were highlighted by back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards and a record-breaking 61 home runs in 1961.

Still, the Yankees did not retire his number 9 until 1984, when he was dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Between his departure in 1966 and the retiring of his number, it was worn by Steve Whitaker, Dick Simpson, Ron Woods, and Graig Nettles.

Phil Rizzuto, 10

Rizzuto was a very good player, probably almost good enough to deserve his election to the Hall of Fame, which he received from the Veterans Committee in 1994. The Yankees retired his number 10 in 1985, probably due as much to his fame as a broadcaster as to his skill on the playing field.

The Yankees gave Rizzuto’s number to Roy Weatherly and Mike Garbark while Scooter was in the service during World War II, and after his career it was issued to Tony Kubek, Dick Howser, Frank Fernandez, Danny Cater, Celerino Sanchez, Chris Chambliss, and Rick Cerone.

Thurman Munson, 15

Munson was an outstanding catcher who played his entire 11-year career with the Yankees. He won the 1970 Rookie of the Year Award in the American League, and six years later he won the Most Valuable Player Award. He is the only Yankees player to win both awards.

Munson was almost surely on a Hall of Fame track in his career, but his life was tragically cut short when he died in a plane crash on August 2, 1979. Even with his short career, Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system ranks Munson as the 12th-best catcher of all time.

Munson spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot. He got 15.5 percent in 1981, his first year of eligibility, but he never again reached double digits. The Yankees retired his number 15 two weeks after his death.

Whitey Ford, 16

Ford went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA in 16 seasons with the Yankees. He missed two seasons for the Korean War when he was 22-23, so his numbers likely would have been even better.

Ford pitched 146 innings in the World Series in his career, posting a 2.71 ERA that was even better than his regular-season mark.

Ford retired in May 1967 with shoulder problems. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974, and the Yankees retired his number 16 that year.

Jorge Posada, 20

The Yankees have had more great catchers than any other team, and Posada was the most recent in that line. In his 17-year career, spent entirely with the Yankees, Posada hit .274/.374/.474 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBIs. He made six All-Star teams and finished as high as third in the MVP voting.

Posada retired after the 2011 season and will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2017. The Yankees retired his number 20 in 2015.

Don Mattingly, 23

At his peak, Mattingly was one of the best hitters in baseball history. From 1984-87, he averaged 30 home runs, 121 RBIs, 46 doubles, 210 hits, and 102 runs per season, with a .337/.381/.560 batting line. In 1987, Mattingly tied Dale Long‘s record by hitting a home run in eight straight games. The record was later tied again by Ken Griffey Jr., although Griffey and Long each only had eight homers during their streaks, while Mattingly had ten. Two of those were grand slams, among the record six slams that Mattingly hit that year. Interestingly, those six grand slams were the only slams of his career.

Unfortunately for Mattingly, 1987 was also the start of his back problems. He missed time in 1987 and 1990 with back injuries, and his power all but disappeared. After hitting 119 homers from 1984-87, Mattingly hit only 99 in the final eighth years of his career.

Mattingly sat out the 1996 season before officially retiring in January 1997. The Yankees retired his number in 1997. In 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, Mattingly topped out at 18.2 percent in his very first year.

Elston Howard, 32

Howard was pretty darn good from 1961-64, winning the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player Award and finishing third and tenth in two other seasons. His combined WAR for those four seasons was 19.7, and his 85 home runs were great for a catcher.

Unfortunately for Howard, that 19.7 WAR accounts for 73 percent of his career total, and the 85 homers are 51 percent of his total. For Howard’s ten other seasons, he ranged between “decent” and “lousy.” Factor in a short 14-year career due to not making the majors until he was 26, and you have the 35th-best catcher in baseball history according to JAWS.

Howard retired in 1968 after two partial seasons with the Red Sox. The Yankees never reissued his number 32, retiring it in 1984. Howard spent all 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot but never came close to election.

Mariano Rivera, 42

The Yankees are one of only two teams to retire number 42 for someone other than Jackie Robinson. Rivera was the Yankees closer from 1997-2013, recording a record 652 saves with a minuscule 2.21 ERA, good for the best ERA+ in baseball history (205). Rivera and Trevor Hoffman each had nine seasons with 40 or more saves; no one else has more than five.

Rivera retired in 2013, going out on top with a 44-save, 2.11-ERA season. His number was retired on September 22 of that year, before he was even done playing.

Reggie Jackson, 44

Jackson wore number 9 with the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles before coming to the Yankees, but 9 was already taken by star third baseman Graig Nettles, so Jackson switched. He asked for number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson, but it had already been given to pitching coach Art Fowler. So Jackson settled on number 44 in honor of Hank Aaron, who had just retired as the career home run leader.

In five tempestuous seasons with the Yankees, Jackson hit 144 home runs and led the team to back-to-back World Series victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977-78. After losing to the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, Jackson went to the California Angels as a free agent.

The Yankees never issued Jackson’s number 44 after he left, but they didn’t officially retire it until he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Andy Pettitte, 46

Pettitte went 219-127 with a 3.94 ERA in 15 seasons across two separate stints with the Yankees. He was a key member of the Yankees teams that won four World Series in five years. He retired in 2013, and the Yankees retired his number 46 in 2015.

Pettitte was the last Yankee to wear number 46, but during his time with the Astros from 2004-2006, it was issued to Donovan Osborne, Darrell May, Alan Embree, Scott Erickson, and Aaron Guiel.

Ron Guidry, 49

Guidry pitched his entire 14-year career with the Yankees, going 170-91 with a 3.29 ERA. He won the 1978 Cy Young Award when he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, and he finished second in 1985 with his 22.6 record and 3.27 ERA.

Guidry retired in 1988, and his number 49 was retired 15 years later. In the interim the number was issued only once, to Jeff Johnson in 1992.

Joe Torre, 6, and Casey Stengel, 37

Torre’s 6 and Stengel’s 37 are the only numbers retired for men who managed but never played for the Yankees. Torre led the Yankees to six AL pennants and four World Series titles in his 12 seaons, and Stengel won 10 pennants and seven World Series in his 12 years.

Unofficial: Derek Jeter, 2

Jeter is a Yankees legend, racking up 3,465 hits and 1,923 runs scored in his 20 seasons in pinstripes. His number 2 is not yet officially retired and no date has been set for that to happen, but it’s a foregone conclusion that it will be retired and that no one else will wear it before that happens.

Unofficial: Paul O’Neill, 21

O’Neill’s number 21 is not retired either, but since his retirement in 2001, it has been issued only once or twice. Morgan Ensberg wore the number in spring training in 2008, but he switched to number 11 after receiving criticism from the pro-O’Neill camp. Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins then took the newly available 21 as a tribute to Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, but he switched to 22 two weeks into the season after facing the same criticism.

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