Pinstripe Prestige: Yankee Numbers Most Likely Headed For Monument Park
Everyone knows that the New York Yankees are the most storied team in the history of sports. They boast 27 World Championships... more than any other professional sports franchise in the world.
In over 100 years in the Major League, the Yankees have had quite a number of legendary ballplayers grace their playing field. Because of this the Yankees have retired more numbers (15) than any other team in baseball, and are tied with only the Montreal Candiens for the most retired numbers in professional sports (this is not taking into account the number 42 which was retired league-wide... more on that later).
The last number retired by the Yankees was Ron Guidry's number 49 in 2003. But after the newest Yankees dynasty of the 1990s/2000s, there is sure to be more numbers headed for Monument Park.
Before I get to the list, here are some notable"just misses":
#54 - Rich "Goose" Gossage: The Goose is recognized as the games first "closer" by defining the position during Yankees dynasty of the late 70s. Until Mariano Rivera, he was probably the greatest relief pitcher in Yankees history... and he's a Hall of Famer. But, if his number hasn't been retired by now, I don't think it's going to happen at all.
#31 - Dave Winfield: Winfield spent the better part of his career in pinstripes. He had his most productive offensive seasons as a Yankee... few can forget the epic battle he had with teamate Don Mattingly for the 1984 batting title (Mattingly came out on top by .003 points). He's also a Hall of Famer. But, his feuds with late owner George Steinbrenner and the fact that he shunned the Yankees and went into the HOF as a Padre, will keep #31 out of monument park.
#24 - Rickey Henderson: Rickey still holds the Yankees single-season and career stolen base records. And besides stolen bases, he had respectable numbers in walks, runs scored and OBP in his tenure in pinstripes... and he's a Hall of Famer. But his HOF carrer is most attributed with the Oakland A's (where his number is retired) and that is where his legacy lies... not in the Bronx.
Number 2 - Derek Jeter
If anyone needs to ask why or thinks there has to be a debate about this, they probably haven't been following baseball for the last 15 seasons.
Number 42 - Mariano Rivera
I know, I know... number 42 was retired across the league to honor Jackie Robinson. But if you honestly think the Yankees won't retire number 42 in pinstripes, then you're delusional. Rivera is the only active player wearing 42 (since it was his number before the Robinson retirement) and as the best closer in the history of the game and the most dominant pitcher in post-season play, this number deserves its place in Monument Park as a Yankee.
Number 46 - Andy Pettitte
Pettitte is the biggest clutch pitcher the Yankees have had since Whitey Ford... and only Ford has more wins in a Yankee uniform than Pettitte.
Last season, he further cemented his already significant Yankee legacy by pitching and winning all three series clinching games in the post-season... and the World Series clincher was on three days rest!
Number 20 - Jorge Posada
The last of the "Core Four" will have his number retired because of his contributions to the World Series teams of the 90s/2000s. He's also one of the most beloved catcher in Yankee history along with Berra and Munson.
Number 6 - Joe Torre
Torre is arguably the greatest manager the Yankees have had since Casey Stengel. There is no doubt in my mind that number 6 will be in Monument Park... and with Jeter's number retired, the Yankees will have retired every number from 1-10.
Number 51 - Bernie Williams
Not since Don Mattingly has there be a more beloved Yankee than Bernie Williams.
After Mattingly retired and before Jeter was made captain, this was Bernie's team and he was the face of the franchise.
I believe Bernie's number is unofficially retired right now because if any current or future Yankee donned 51, they would be jeered by every Yankee fan in the stadium.
Which leads to my next number...
Number 21 - Paul O'Neill
The Warrior's number is unofficially retired for all intents and purposes... just ask LaTroy Hawkins.
On opening day of the 2008 season, Hawkins sauntered out of the Yankees dugout to thunderous boos and jeers by the Stadium crowd simply because he was wearing number 21. By the next game, he was wearing number 22.
Not to mention, Paulie was a pretty damn good ball player as well!
Number 24 - Tino Martinez
When Tino came to the Bronx, he had colossal shoes to fill. Don Mattingly had patrolled first base in Yankee stadium for 14 seasons, and after the Yankees hearbreaking ALDS elimination in 1995, Donnie decided to hang up his cleats. Enter Tino, who was coming from the Mariners... the team who eliminated the Yankees in 1995... to come and take the place of a man who was the most beloved player in New York.
It took Yankee fans some time to warm up to Tino, but when they did, they loved him! He was an integral part of they Yankees' World Series teams of the 90s and his clutch grand slam in game one of the 1998 World Series sealed his Yankee legacy.
Tino became such a fan favorite that when the Yankees let him go to the Cardinals in 2001, and he returned to the Stadium during interleague play, he received thunderous applause. In that game, he hit a HR off Roger Clemens and the Yankee Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation!
Tino's contributions to the World Series teams and his tremendous popularity with Yankee fans will get #24 into Monument Park.
Side note: If Robison Cano keeps playing the way he has, and he stays in a Yankee uniform for a good portion of his career, then the Yankees may be retiring #24 twice (like they did with #8).
Number 13 - Alex Rodriguez
Ok, let the debate begin! We all know about the performance enhancing drugs, and the consistent post-season choking. The affairs with strippers and flings with Madonna and Kate Hudson.
He won an MVP with the Yanks, hit his 500th and 600th career HR with the Yanks, and is most likely going to break every major offensive record in a Yankees uniform. I think that merrits number 13 to hang in Monument Park.