(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.)
Perhaps the most impressive team when it comes to avoiding Retired Number Bandits is the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have officially retired six numbers and unofficially retired three others.
Not a single one of the officially retired uniform numbers has been worn since its most famous owner, and their record is nearly as good with their unofficially retired numbers. Some of that is due to circumstance, perhaps — all six of those men were clear or likely Hall of Famers by the time their Orioles careers ended, and all of them made significant contributions to championship teams.
But many teams have let the numbers of clear Hall of Famers be worn by lesser players before retiring them, and the Orioles deserve credit for putting these six numbers on ice immediately after the Hall of Famers took of the jerseys.
|#||Retired For||HoF?||Years w/ Team||Last Issued||Officially Retired||# of Bandits|
|8||Cal Ripken Jr.||Yes||1981-2001||2001||2001||0|
|20||Frank Robinson||Yes||1966-71, 1988-91||1991||1972||0|
|7||Cal Ripken Sr.||No||1976-92||1992||-||1*|
|46||Mike Flanagan||No||1975-87, 1991-92||2011||-||7|
Robinson played his entire 23-year Hall of Fame career with the Orioles. He won the 1964 American League MVP Award and 16 straight Gold Gloves from 1960-75. His solid offense and premium defense made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1983. He retired in 1977 and the Orioles retired his number the next year.
Cal Ripken Jr., 8
Ripken was similar to Robinson in some ways, playing his entire career on the left side of the Orioles infield. Although Ripken only won two Gold Gloves, he played premium defense at the most demanding position on the field, even more impressive when you factor in that he was the tallest shortstop in big league history. Ripken won the 1982 Rookie of the Year Award and MVP Awards in 1983 and 1991. He is, of course, most famous for his streak of playing in 2,531 consecutive games.
The Orioles retired Ripken’s number 8 as soon as he retired in 2001. He saild into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with 98.5 percent of the vote.
Frank Robinson, 20
Robinson played only six years in Baltimore, but he won the Triple Crown in 1966, bringing home the MVP Award and helping the Orioles win the World Series. The Orioles traded Robinson to the Dodgers in 1971, but they retired his number the next year before his playing career was even over.
Although he spent more time with the Cincinnati Reds, Robinson wears an Orioles hat on his plaque in the Hall of Fame, to which he was elected in 1982.
Jim Palmer, 22
Palmer won three Cy Young Awards and finished five other times in the top five. He played his entire 19-year career with the Orioles and went 268-152 with a 2.86 ERA. He didn’t get to 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts, but he was easily elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, his first year on the ballot, with 92.6 percent of the vote.
Palmer retired in 1984 and his number was retired in 1985. He attempted a comeback in 1991 at age 45, but ineffectiveness and a hamstring injury cut short his attempt and he retired permanently. He is now a color commentator on the Orioles television broadcasts.
Eddie Murray, 33
Murray played 13 seasons with the Orioles, winning the 1977 Rookie of the Year Award and then receiving MVP votes in each of the next eight seasons, including back-to-back second-place finishes in 1982-83. He had 2,080 of his 3,255 career hits and 343 of his 504 career homers in an Orioles uniform.
Murray was traded to the Dodgers after the 1989 season, and while the Orioles didn’t officially retire his number 33 until 1998 after he had retired, it was never issued to anyone else after him. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003 in his first year of eligibility.
Earl Weaver, 4
Weaver managed the Orioles from 1968-82, winning four American League pennants (including three in a row from 1969-71) and the 1970 World Series. He retired after the 1982 season, then was coaxed out of retirement in 1985. He retired permanently after the 1986 season.
Weaver was ejected from at least 91 big league games as a manager, perhaps as many as 98. Three times he was ejected from both games of a doubleheader, and twice he was ejected from a game before it had begun. Both of those ejections were by Ron Luciano, whose book “The Umpire Strikes Back” shares many hilarious stories about Weaver/Luciano confrontations. Weaver once told an umpire who offered to let him look up a rule in his rulebook, “That’s no good — I can’t read Braille.”
The Orioles retired Weaver’s number 4 just prior to his first retirement in 1982. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996 and died in 2013 at the age of 82.
I won’t embed the video linked here because the language is very NSFW, but here’s safer video of Weaver becoming the first manager since 1935 to be ejected from a World Series game in 1969:
Unofficial: Cal Ripken Sr., 7
The only player to wear Ripken Sr.’s number 7 since Ripken was fired as manager in 1988 was his son Billy Ripken, who wore the number for the rest of that season. Cal Sr. was re-hired as the Orioles third-base coach following that season, so Billy switched back to his customary number 3.
Number 7 has been out of circulation since Senior last coached for the team in 1992.
Unofficial: Elrod Hendricks, 44
Hendricks wore number 10 for most of his Orioles career, but he switched to number 44 for his final two seasons as a player and throughout his time as the Orioles bullpen coach. No one has worn the number since Hendricks, who died in 2005.
Unofficial: Mike Flanagan, 46
Number 46 has been worn by a few players since star pitcher Flanagan. Butch Davis, Dorn Taylor, and Jay Aldrich all wore the number during Flanagan’s time with the Blue Jays before he returned to Baltimore, and John O’Donoghue, Jimmy Myers, Kerry Ligtenberg, and Jeremy Guthrie all wore it after Flanagan’s retirement.
Flanagan worked for years as a coach, executive, and broadcaster for the Orioles, and the Orioles have not issued number 46 since Flanagan’s suicide in 2011.
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