The Potential Dilemma Facing the Retirement of Jersey Numbers

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The retirement of numbers is a special moment in the game of baseball. The jersey is hung up forever with that number never to be worn again.

That special moment took place in Arlington on a rainy Saturday night when the Rangers retired Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez’s No. 7 jersey. Pudge became one of only three players to have their number retired by the organization, joining Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and former manager Johnny Oates.

Make no mistake about it, Pudge was worthy of the honor and congrats are due and deserved.

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But the retirement of the numbers brings about an interesting topic, one that could become a problem later on down the road for Major League Baseball.  What happens when you run out of numbers?

 It sounds crazy but there may be some meat left on this bone.

An example of this lies in New York. Once the No. 2 jersey of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is retired, the Yankees will be without the use of single digits. 1-10 will no longer be available to use, joining some multiple digit numbers already out of commission. Granted, the organization has been around for a while with many some of the greats to ever put on a baseball uniform wearing the famous pinstripes. 

Now, there are MLB teams that don’t have many retired numbers at all, so it’s not like this is an epidemic that is right around the corner. On the flip side, it could speed up if the organizations start retiring numbers in lightning fashion. Life can come at you fast.

This is where it can be said that the NFL has the right idea. Let’s bring the Cowboys into the equation. The former players and the jersey numbers are still respected by being inducted into the Ring of Honor. At the same time, the jersey number remains active. By doing that, a future superstar has the potential of joining an elite club, such as the 88 club. Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin made the 88 Cowboys jersey famous. Dez Bryant was next in line with the responsibility that came along with it. He didn’t shy away.

Granted, in the NFL, certain numbers go with certain positions. For example, quarterbacks usually don’t go above the No. 19, so the retiring number gimmick gets a little tricky.

Let’s use the Yankees as another example, albeit from a different perspective. Their young superstar, outfielder Aaron Judge, currently wears No. 99. Imagine if he wore a No. 7 or No. 9, joining a very elite club with the Yankees franchise. Granted, that would come with high expectations to live up to the likes of Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris and some players may not want that added pressure. A quarterback can always come along in Dallas and wear Troy Aikman’s No. 8 but may not want the expectations that ride along with it. That’s their choice.

If you dive into the business side of the topic, it can be a money-maker. The 88 jersey with Bryant on the back is a hot seller but the 88 Irvin jersey is also available for extra money to be made. The No. 7 jersey could have the same affect with the younger Judge fans while providing an opportunity on why Mantle made it famous.

Bryant welcomed the challenge when handed No. 88, considering it an honor and wanting to do everything possible to live up to those who wore it before him. Have to think there would be players in MLB that would feel the same way. Many youngsters pick the number of their favorite player in little league, at least that’s the way it used to be, hoping to someday achieve that type of success in the game.  Same thing happens on the college level. There was one instance where a college sophomore was handed No. 34. It was a big deal to “Baby Nolan,” being that was Ryan’s number. Memories are made that way.

Again, take nothing away from the honor of the retiring of numbers. This only happens to a select few. But as the years go by, the selective few many grow.

As the saying goes, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

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