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Retired Numbers in Major League Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

The Cleveland Indians experimented with uniform numbers for a short time in both 1916 and 1917 on the left and right sleeve, respectively. The 1923 St. Louis Cardinals also tried using numbers of their sleeves, but it was the 1929 Yankees and Indians who first put them on the backs of their uniforms. Uniform numbers were not common among all 16 teams until 1937. 

On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig's #4 became the first uniform number to be "retired." Well over 100 players have had similar honors in the years since and hardly a year goes by without someone joining the list.

On April 15, 1997, Jackie Robinson's #42 was retired by Major League Baseball, which means that no Major League Player will ever wear that number again. Those players who already were wearing 42 were allowed to continue doing so. The seven players who continued to wear Jackie's number were Butch Huskey (Mets), Mike Jackson (Indians), Scott Karl (Brewers), Jose Lima (Astros), Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Mo Vaughn (Red Sox), and Lenny Webster (Orioles). 

A number of uniform retirements had more to do with honoring the victim of a tragedy rather than one of the all-time greats. The Astros honored Jim Umbricht, a borderline major league pitcher who lost his battle with cancer at age 33 in 1964. The Astros later honored Don Wilson, whose suicide attempt was so tragically successful that he managed to take his son with him. He at least pitched a pair of no hitters. 

The Astros lead in another category: most players with retired numbers who never made a single "The Sporting News All-Star" team. Jose Cruz, Jimmy Wynn, and Mike Scott join Wilson and Umbricht for a record five. In fact there are only seven other such honored players in all of baseball and five of them are in the Hall of Fame!

Some teams have made a mockery of the honor by either having executives honor themselves or to retire numbers of players whose accomplishments were achieved elsewhere. Among the ridiculous number retirements are #85 of Cardinals owner Augie Busch, #26 of Angels owner Gene Autry, #5 of Marlins president Carl Barger, and #12 by the Devil Rays of Wade Boggs, who lead the team in only one offensive category in his short time: grounding into double plays in 1999.

Players who received similar "retirement" honors, but who played in the era before uniform numbers include: Ty Cobb (Tigers), Grover Cleveland Alexander (Phillies), Chuck Klein (Phillies), Christy Mathewson (Giants), John McGraw (Giants) and Rogers Hornsby (Cardinals).

Uniform numbers were originally assigned by the player's position within the batting order, which is one reason 1-9 are mostly over-represented. The first number which has not been retired, perhaps not surprisingly given the irrational fear of it, is 13. With Alex Rodriguez now wearing that number for the only team that can afford his salary, that should eventually change. On the opposite side of the superstition is #7, which is oddly well under-represented in the first 10 numbers with only Mickey Mantle managing to get it retired.

The teams that have never retired a number are the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Colorado Rockies, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. (All team pages list any retired numbers.)

Here is a list of retired uniform numbers by number. (We try to update this list during the season. If we miss one from 2006 or later, please use the Contact link at the top right of this page to let us know. We are confident the list is complete through 2005, however.)

1 Billy Meyer - Pirates (manager)
Pee Wee Reese - Dodgers
Bobby Doerr - Red Sox
Fred Hutchinson - Reds (manager)
Ozzie Smith - Cardinals
Richie Ashburn - Phillies
Billy Martin - Yankees
2 Red Schoendienst - Cardinals
Nellie Fox - White Sox
Tommy Lasorda - Dodgers (manager)
Charlie Gehringer - Tigers
3 Babe Ruth - Yankees
Earl Averill - Indians
Bill Terry - Giants
Harmon Killebrew - Twins
Dale Murphy - Braves
Harold Baines - White Sox
4 Luke Appling - White Sox
Earl Weaver - Orioles (manager)
Duke Snider - Dodgers
Ralph Kiner - Pirates
Lou Gehrig - Yankees
Paul Molitor - Brewers
Mel Ott - Giants
Joe Cronin - Red Sox
5 Brooks Robinson - Orioles
Carl Barger - Marlins (club president)
Lou Boudreau - Indians
George Brett - Royals
Johnny Bench - Reds
Hank Greenberg - Tigers
Joe DiMaggio - Yankees
6 Steve Garvey - Padres
Stan Musial - Cardinals
Al Kaline - Tigers
Tony Oliva - Twins
7 Mickey Mantle - Yankees
8 Willie Stargell - Pirates
Joe Morgan - Reds
Yogi Berra - Yankees
Gary Carter - Expos
Cal Ripken, Jr, - Orioles
Bill Dickey - Yankees
Carl Yastrzemski - Red Sox
9 Ted Williams - Red Sox
Reggie Jackson - Athletics
Minnie Minoso - White Sox
Enos Slaughter - Cardinals
Bill Mazeroski - Pirates
Roger Maris - Yankees
10 Sparky Anderson - Reds (manager)
Dick Howser - Royals (manager)
Phil Rizzuto - Yankees
Andre Dawson - Expos
Rusty Staub - Expos
Ron Santo - Cubs
11 Carl Hubbell - Giants
Jim Fregosi - Angels
Luis Aparicio - White Sox
12 Wade Boggs - Devil Rays
14 Ernie Banks - Cubs
Kent Hrbek - Twins
Larry Doby - Indians
Ken Boyer - Cardinals
Gil Hodges - Mets (manager)
Jim Bunning - Phillies
15 Thurman Munson - Yankees
16 Hal Newhouser - Tigers
Ted Lyons - White Sox
Whitey Ford - Yankees
17 Dizzy Dean - Cardinals
18 Ted Kluszewski - Reds
Mel Harder - Indians
19 Bob Feller - Indians
Billy Pierce - White Sox
Jim Gilliam - Dodgers
Tony Gwynn - Padres
Robin Yount - Brewers
20 Lou Brock - Cardinals
Frank Robinson - Orioles & Reds
Pie Traynor - Pirates
Mike Schmidt - Phillies
Don Sutton - Dodgers
Frank White - Royals
21 Bob Lemon - Indians
Warren Spahn - Braves
Roberto Clemente - Pirates
22 Jim Palmer - Orioles
23 Ryne Sandberg - Cubs
Don Mattingly - Yankees
Willie Horton - Tigers
24 Tony Perez - Reds
Willie Mays - Giants
Walter Alston - Dodgers (manager)
Jimmy Wynn - Astros
25 Jose Cruz - Astros
26 Billy Williams - Cubs
Gene Autry - Angels (owner)
Johnny Oates - Rangers (manager)
27 Carlton Fisk - Red Sox
Catfish Hunter - Athletics
Juan Marichal - Giants
29 Rod Carew - Angels & Twins
30 Orlando Cepeda - Giants
Nolan Ryan - Angels
Tim Raines - Expos
31 Dave Winfield - Padres
32 Steve Carlton - Phillies
Sandy Koufax - Dodgers
Elston Howard - Yankees
Jim Umbricht - Astros
33 Mike Scott - Astros
Eddie Murray - Orioles
Honus Wagner - Pirates
34 Dennis Eckersley - Athletics
Rollie Fingers - Athletics & Brewers
Nolan Ryan - Rangers & Astros
Kirby Puckett - Twins
35 Randy Jones - Padres
Phil Niekro - Braves
36 Robin Roberts - Phillies
Gaylord Perry - Giants
37 Casey Stengel - Yankees & Mets (manager)
39 Roy Campanella - Dodgers
40 Don Wilson - Astros
Danny Murtaugh - Pirates (manager)
41 Eddie Mathews - Braves
Tom Seaver - Mets
42 Jackie Robinson - Dodgers
(later retired throughout MLB)
43 Dennis Eckersley - Athletics
44 Hank Aaron - Braves & Brewers
Reggie Jackson - Yankees
Willie McCovey - Giants
45 Bob Gibson - Cardinals
49 Larry Dierker - Astros
Ron Guidry - Yankees
50 Jimmie Reese - Angels (coach)
53 Don Drysdale - Dodgers
72 Carlton Fisk - White Sox
85 August Busch, Jr. - Cardinals (owner)


Total Baseball: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia by John Thorn, et al.
2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia by Gary Gillette (Editor), Pete Palmer (Editor).

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Mariano Rivera is the only player still active allowed to wear uniform #42. Thus he will be the last in Major League history to do so.

Photo by Michael Ponzini, 2006

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