Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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As sports fans, we don’t commonly associate an athlete to their statistics, but more the jersey number that they represent. To take it a step further, football has 7, basketball has 23 and baseball has 42. Some of the most famous jersey numbers in baseball came from the New York Yankees and while that is a testament to their greatness, the closely awaited retirement of Derek Jeter puts more than just the team’s future at shortstop in jeopardy.
At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Derek Jeter will officially retire from the New York Yankees and the game of baseball, as you already know. After the incredible career that Jeter has put together, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that “The Captain” will be a Hall of Famer and have his #2 retired by the Yankees, but once he does, no number from 1 through 9 will ever be worn by a future Yankee ever again.
Prior to Jeter’s heroics, the Yankees retired the numbers of Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe Dimaggio (5), Joe Torre (6), Mickey Mantle (7), Yogi Berra & Bill Dickey (8) and Roger Maris (9). That is some pretty impressive company that Jeter will most likely be joining, but it also means that we will never see a single-digit number grace a Yankee uniform ever again. I understand that this is a very miniscule problem that future Yankees will face due to their respect for the game, but if you ask me, it does raise the question of whether or not jersey numbers should still be retired.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about honoring the great ballplayers that made baseball what it is today, but as the game progresses and numbers continue to be retired, what happens when you don’t have enough numbers to field a full roster? I know that is strictly hypothetical and will probably never happen, but just think about it.
If we look at baseball 200 years from now, there will probably have been 20 more Miguel Cabreras, 15 more Clayton Kershaws and 3 more Babe Ruths. That isn’t even counting other future ballplayers that will be some of the game’s greatest and will have had their numbers retired as well. The New York Yankees currently have 17 retired numbers (18 after Jeter) and in 100 years, that number will probably double. After another 100 years, chances are that the historic and successful Yankees will have almost 60 numbers retired and unless baseball wants to allow triple-digit jerseys, these teams, especially the Yankees, are going to have to find a different way to remember and honor the past. I enjoy seeing Bob Feller’s #19 hanging up at Jacobs Field (Don't correct me, it will ALWAYS be Jacobs Field) as much as the next Indians fan, but once these teams run out of numbers, this problem will need to be solved.
Chances are pretty good that nobody agrees with me and Major League Baseball already has a plan in place for this, and if they do, good for them. It will be odd to never see a Yankee single-digit number ever again and maybe this will be an issue in a few hundred years, but as for present day, let’s just lean back, enjoy our peanuts and recognize the greats that brought baseball to its current promise land.