Superstars, Barely Stars, and Bandits: Digging Into Retired Numbers

Thanks to Jackie Robinson, every team in Major League Baseball has at least one retired number. Most teams have several, some teams have very few, and one team has a ridiculous number. What nearly every team has in common, though, is what we like to call “Retired Number Bandits” — players who wore a particular number after the player for whom it is retired.

Take Tom Paciorek, for example. Paciorek played 18 seasons in the big leagues for six different teams, and the best thing he ever did was make this video:

But did you know that Paciorek — not Don Drysdale — was the last Los Angeles Dodgers player to wear number 53? As a rookie in 1970, the year after Drysdale retired, “Wimpy” Paciorek played in eight games with the number 53 on his back. The Dodgers came to their senses in 1971 and unofficially retired Drysdale’s number before officially retiring it upon his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

Paciorek is just one of many Bandits, though. In this feature, we’ve compiled information on every retired number in baseball, including all the Retired Number Bandits. This is the only page that has a video of a mediocre ballplayer getting dressed, but there’s at least one multimedia bonus on each team’s page. By the end of this journey, we will have touched on every retired number in the big leagues. We will also cover numbers that have not officially been retired but have been taken out of circulation by the team. Some of these are just temporary until they can be retired (like Derek Jeter‘s number 2 with the New York Yankees), while others are for teams that only retire the number of Hall of Famers but don’t want anyone wearing the numbers of their non-Hall stars (see Tim Wakefield, Jay Buhner, and Fernando Valenzuela as examples).

Before we start, let’s be clear on what a Retired Number Bandit is and is not. A Bandit is a player who wore the uniform number that has since been retired at any point after the person for whom it is retired first put it on. So Mario Picone, who wore Willie Mays‘ number 24 for the New York Giants while Mays was in the military in 1952, is a Bandit. Paciorek is a Bandit. Tim Conroy, who wore number 24 for the Oakland A’s as a teammate of Rickey Henderson from 1983-85 before Rickey switched to 24, is NOT a Bandit, nor is George Jeffcoat, who wore 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers eight years before Jackie Robinson debuted. Got it? (If you want to skip ahead and see a list of all 758 Retired Number Bandits, you can click here.)

Let’s talk retired numbers!

(By the way, throughout this piece we will basically be setting aside the number 42 that is retired league-wide, except in our discussion of Robinson’s actual team, the Dodgers.)

Up first: the Baltimore Orioles (or click a team below).

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