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Retired number

Retiring the number of an athlete is an honor a team bestows upon a player, usually after the player has left the team, retires from the sport or dies. Once a number is retired, no future player from the team may wear that number on their uniform, unless the player so-honored permits it, however in many cases the number cannot be used at all no matter what. Such an honor may also be bestowed on players who had highly memorable careers, died prematurely under tragic circumstances,[1] or have had their promising careers ended by serious injury. Some sports that retire team numbers include baseball, cricket,[1] ice hockey, basketball, American football and association football. Retired jerseys are often referred to as "hanging from the rafters" as they are, literally, put to hang in the team's home arena.[2]

The first number officially retired by a team in a professional sport was that of hockey player Ace Bailey, whose number 6 was retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1934.

Details and examples

File:Michael Jordan UNC Jersey cropped.jpg
Michael Jordan's jersey in the rafters at the University of North Carolina
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Minor league teams also retire numbers, such as the Kansas City T-Bones retiring #22 as a tribute to Buck O'Neil.

If a jersey is retired and an active player is still wearing it, the player is usually permitted to wear the number for his entire career as a player. If in the sport, managers and coaches wear uniform numbers, and the player later becomes a coach for the same team, he is also permitted to wear it as a coach.

However, in some cases the player may elect to change their number. For instance, in 1987 the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League decided to retire jersey number 7 in honor of Phil Esposito, who had become a star while playing for the team. At the time #7 belonged to Ray Bourque, who was the Bruins' captain and had become a star in his own right. On the night of the ceremony honoring Esposito, Bourque took to the ice wearing his normal jersey. He skated over to the Hall of Famer, took off the jersey, and handed it to Esposito in what was referred to as Bourque's "surrender" of the number he had worn since breaking into the league. Underneath was a jersey numbered 77, which would become as associated with Bourque as the 7 was with Esposito in Boston.[3] Bourque's new jersey number would eventually join Esposito's in the rafters of TD Garden, as the Bruins retired his #77 following his 2001 retirement.

In rare cases, a number may be retired because of the player's endeavors in other fields. For example, former college football star Gerald Ford's number 48 was retired by the University of Michigan football squad by virtue of his future career as the 38th President of the United States.[4]

Teams also take numbers out of circulation without formally retiring them. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not reissued the jersey numbers of several of their greatest players—most notably Terry Bradshaw's #12, Franco Harris' #32, and Joe Greene's #75. Before the Steelers announced that Greene's number would be retired in 2014, the team had formally retired only one number in its history—Ernie Stautner's number 70.[5] Nonetheless, it is generally understood that no Steeler will ever wear 12 (Terry Bradshaw ), 32 (Franco Harris), 36 (Jerome Bettis), 43 (Troy Polamalu), 52 (Mike Webster), 58 (Jack Lambert), 59 (Jack Ham) and 63 (Dermontti Dawson) again.[citation needed] Similarly, with the exception of a pair of quarterbacks in the mid-1980s, the Green Bay Packers have not re-issued Paul Hornung's number 5 since his departure from the team following the 1966 season. The Dallas Cowboys do not officially retire numbers, but it is generally understood that Roger Staubach's #12, Bob Lilly's #74, Troy Aikman's #8, and Emmitt Smith's #22 will never be worn again in the regular season (though the Cowboys have occasionally used Lilly's 74 in the preseason). Additionally, Peyton Manning, upon his release by the Indianapolis Colts, owner Jim Irsay stated that no Colt will ever wear the number 18 again, though it was not officially retired.[6] After his departure from the team in 2004, the Lakers removed Shaquille O'Neal's #34 from circulation. The Lakers had announced the intention to retire O'Neal's #34 officially, though, doing so on April 2, 2013.[7]

Outside of USA, due to the relatively short history of One Day International and Twenty20 cricket, once a player retires, the number will rarely be re-issued to another player in some countries (e.g. Zimbabwe, New Zealand), yet jersey numbers can be switched to a number previously worn by a retired player as numbers are not officially retired. For example: Trent Boult switched his squad number for New Zealand's national squad number to 18, a number previously worn by Mathew Sinclair due to both player's uncanny ability to make acrobatic catches near the boundary. In England, Joe Root adopted his county squad number of 5 after Paul Collingwood retired, while Steven Finn adopted the number 11 after Andrew Flintoff retired from international cricket. However, the most notable jersey number retirement came when Australian Cricket granted Michael Clarke's wishes to retire the 64 jersey number in Phillip Hughes' honour after his untimely passing. Number 63, the number last worn by Andrew Symonds, would never be reissued because Hughes' final innings was cut short at 63 not out.

Some teams either formally or informally take a jersey out of circulation when a player dies or has his career ended by serious injury or disease. For instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs only retire a player's number if he experiences a career-ending incident while playing for the team. As a result, they have only retired two jerseys in their entire history; Ace Bailey's #6 was retired after he suffered a career-ending head injury [8] and Bill Barilko's #5 was retired after his disappearance and presumed death on a fishing trip (his death was confirmed years later with the discovery of the wreckage of the plane on which he was flying).[9] The New York Yankees retired Lou Gehrig's #4 after he was forced to retire due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The New York Jets did not reissue the #90 of Dennis Byrd following a career ending neck injury, and eventually retired the number in 2012.[10] Similarly, after Wayne Chrebet was forced to retire after suffering multiple concussions, the Jets took his #80 out of circulation but have not yet retired it; Byrd and Curtis Martin were the most recent Jets to have their numbers retired as both were done on the same day.

Some association football clubs have started doing this as squad numbers have become common. AS Roma, AC Milan, Internazionale, Napoli, Manchester City, Lens, Lyon and Swansea City have all retired shirt numbers; Milan retiring Franco Baresi's #6 shirt and Paolo Maldini's #3 shirt (with the caveat that one of Maldini's sons can wear the shirt if they play professionally for the club).[11] The Swans retired the shirt number of Besian Idrizaj after he died in his sleep, of a suspected heart attack, at his family home in Linz, Austria. Manchester City, Lens and Lyon all retired the shirt number of Marc-Vivien Foé after his death on the field in the 2003 Confederations Cup; the Cameroon national team also attempted to retire Foé's number, but FIFA prevented them from doing so.[citation needed] FIFA also rejected an attempt by Argentina to retire the number of Diego Maradona.

Some teams have also retired number 12 in honor of their fans, or the "Twelfth Man".[12] Similarly, the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic retired number 6 in honor of their fans, the "Sixth Man".

In Finnish ice hockey, if a player's number is retired, family members (most notably his son, or son-in-law) can use the retired number if he plays for the same organization. Timo Nummelin had his number 3 retired by TPS, and later his son, Petteri Nummelin, wore number 3 for the team. Similarly, Italian AC Milan has promised to retire Paolo Maldini's number 3 once he retires, but with a provision that it could be used by his sons if either of them makes the club's first team squad.[13]

Following the death of Wouter Weylandt in the 2011 Giro d'Italia cycle race, organizers decided that they would not reassign Weylandt's bib number of 108 in future editions of the race.[14]

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A plaque honoring Jackie Robinson in Monument part at old Yankee Stadium.

In 2008, Princeton University retired the number 42 for all Princeton Tigers sports teams in honor of Bill Bradley and Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier.[15]

Michigan Wolverines football unretired all of the numbers that it had retired to create legends jerseys worn by its best players. The unretired jerseys were Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47, Gerald Ford's No. 48, Ron Kramer's No. 87, The Wistert Brothers' (Whitey Wistert, Al Wistert, Alvin Wistert) No. 11 and Tom Harmon's No. 98.[16][17]

In Australian rules football, some clubs may exercise the right to retire a particular jersey number, either to honour a past player or to simply cease use of the number. Examples include the Hawthorn Football Club, who retired their No. 1 jersey prior to the beginning of the 2011 AFL season as the tribute to the fans, according to Max Bailey, the last person to wear the #1 jersey, had his career cut short by multiple injuries to his right knee, and thanked the fans in his comeback attempts, and the Collingwood Football Club, who retired their No. 42 shirt in honour of Darren Millane, a Collingwood premiership player who was killed in a car crash in 1991.[18]

League-wide retirements

Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the modern era of Major League Baseball, had his number 42 retired league-wide in 1997 (although those players who were wearing the number at the time were permitted to retain it for the duration of their careers — Mariano Rivera was the last remaining player to wear the number, and he retired at the end of the 2013 season). The only other exception to this retirement is on April 15, the anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut, when all uniformed personnel (players, managers, coaches, umpires) wear 42. Wayne Gretzky's number 99 was likewise retired league-wide by the National Hockey League upon his retirement from the game.

Auto racing

In NASCAR, only once has a number been officially retired; that is in the Whelen Modified Tour, where number 61 is retired for Richie Evans after his death in 1985. NASCAR unofficially retired the number 3 in honor of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. after his death on the track at the 2001 Daytona 500. Following his death, Earnhardt's old team changed to the number 29, and the replacement driver (Kevin Harvick) drove 29 car through the 2013 season. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made two special appearances in a number 3 car in the Busch Series in 2002 and again in the renamed Nationwide Series on July 2, 2010 at Daytona, but otherwise the number 3 was absent from all three national touring series until 2009, when Austin Dillon drove a number 3 in the Camping World Truck Series.[19] Dillon is the grandson of Earnhardt's longtime friend and car owner Richard Childress, and he drives for Richard Childress Racing. After winning the Truck Series title in 2011, he drove the #3 car in the Nationwide Series in 2012 and 2013, and returned the number to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 when he began competing full-time in that series for RCR. Ty Dillon, Austin's brother (another grandson of Childress), ran the number 3 in the Camping World Truck Series and began driving the number 3 in the Nationwide Series, now known as the Xfinity Series, in 2014.[20]

Following the 1989 24 Hours of Daytona, months after his fatal plane crash, IMSA retired Al Holbert's #14.[21]

CART retired the use of #99 after the fatal accident of Greg Moore in 1999. However, since the IndyCar Series unification took place in 2008, that recognition has since been abandoned.

Grand Prix motorcycle racing retired the use of #74 after the fatal accident of Daijiro Kato in 2003, #48 after the fatal accident of Shoya Tomizawa in 2010 and #58 after the accident Marco Simoncelli at the Sepang Circuit on 2011.

Rugby league

In other sports such as Rugby League and Rugby Union, despite the long history of the games, it used to be the case that because each number represents the particular positions on the field, the retirement of jersey numbers was impossible. However as more leagues have gone over the use of squad numbers the retirement of numbers is now possible. The first recorded example in Rugby League was in May 2015 when Keighley Cougars withdrew number 6 following the death of Danny Jones during a match.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b Horne, Ben (29 November 2014). "Phillip Hughes remembered: Michael Clarke delivers emotional tribute to batsman and confirms his ODI number will be retired". The Daily Telegraph. Australia. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Hanging from the Rafters NBA Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  3. ^ Harding, Thomas (June 10, 2001). "Raymond Bourque timeline". The Gazette (Colorado Springs). Retrieved July 21, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Ford one of most athletic presidents". Associated Press. Sports Illustrated via CNN. December 27, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers to Retire Joe Greene's Number '75'" (Press release). Pittsburgh Steelers. July 30, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ Colts "retire" Manning's #18
  7. ^
  8. ^ Maple Leafs alumni page on Ace Bailey
  9. ^ Maple Leafs alumni page on Bill Barilko
  10. ^ Cimini, Rich (October 24, 2012). "The bond no man could break". Retrieved October 24, 2012. 
  11. ^ Scott Murray; Paolo Bandini (27 May 2009). "Which clubs have retired shirt numbers?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Serie A - Ronaldinho plays numbers game". Eurosport (Yahoo!). 22 July 2008. 
  13. ^ Kelly, Cathal (22 February 2007). "The monarch of defence". Toronto Star. 
  14. ^ Stokes, Shane (2011-05-12). "Weylandt’s race number retired from Giro d’Italia". VeloNation. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  15. ^ "Kazmaier '52, sports icon, dies at 82". Princeton Alumni Weekly 114 (1): 49. September 18, 2013. 
  16. ^ "U-M to Recognize Ford, Kramer and Oosterbaan as Football Legends". CBS Interactive. June 12, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Ford Named Michigan Football Legend; Morgan to Wear No. 48 Jersey". CBS Interactive. October 13, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  18. ^ Magpie Collingwood open to reviving No.42, Herald Sun, 13 May 2011
  19. ^ Caraviello, David (September 3, 2009). "Childress grandson brings No. 3 back to national level". NASCAR. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Martin, J. A.; Wells, Ken (January 2001). Prototypes: The History of the IMSA GTP Series (1st ed.). United States: David Bull Publishing. ISBN 1-893618-01-3. 
  22. ^ "Keighley Cougars retire No6 shirt after Danny Jones’s death". The Guardian. 4 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.