Friday, September 29, 2023

my retired number collection - these are the unnumbered

this is the second post in a series that shares the cards i have in my retired number mini-collection. here's the first post if you wish to catch up and read a bit about the background for this endeavor. also keep in mind that there's a full list of retired numbers along with what this collection will entail over at my want list site.

if you're ready, let's take a look at the folks honored by a handful of franchises even though there is no specific jersey number associated with them.

"ny" christy mathewson (honored by the giants in 1986) - 2010 topps vintage legends collection
the giants added a placard with "ny" under mathewson's name to their outfield wall on august 17, 1986. mathewson is a first class hall of famer whose 373 wins are still the third most in history.

"ny" john mcgraw (honored by the giants in 1986) - 2004 topps tribute
the giants honored mcgraw in the same way as mathewson on the same day. he was the club's manager for over 30 years, winning 10 pennants and three world series. he was, of course, the reason that there was no world series in 1904 (the year he won his first pennant) but was convinced to play in 1905 and captured his first world series title as a result. he was elected to the hall of fame in 1937.

"sl" rogers hornsby (honored by the cardinals in 1997) - 1999 upper deck century legends
according to baseball reference, rogers hornsby wore numbers 4 and 6 for the cardinals during his career, but the team recognized him sans number in 1997. he was inducted in to the hall of fame in 1942 after a playing career that included six batting titles and two triple crowns. both triple crowns and five of those batting titles came as a cardinal.

"p" grover cleveland alexander (honored by the phillies in 2001) - 1999 upper deck century legends
the phillies used the 1915 style "p" to honor alexander who is tied with mathewson for third place all-time in wins with 373. 190 of those wins came while alexander was a phillie, for whom he led the league in wins 5 times and achieved the pitching triple crown three times. alexander was elected to the hall of fame in1938.
"p" chuck klein (honored by the phillies in 2001) - 2002 topps tribute
klein wore a variety of numbers late in his career, but the phillies chose to honor him with an old english style "p" instead of a number in 2001. you can see a number on his back on the above card - it would be either 26 or 29, neither of which he wore in 1933 when he achieved the triple crown with 28 homers, 120 rbi, and a .368 batting average. that marked his sixth and final season as a phillie to start his career, although he returned to the club twice later in his career. klein was the national league mvp in 1932, but finished second to carl hubbell in 1933. he was elected to the hall of fame in 1980.

"cobb" ty cobb (honored by the tigers) - 2009 topps tribute blue
when comerica park opened, ty cobb's last name was displayed on the brick wall beyond left-centerfield next to the retired numbers of hank greenbert, charlie gehringer, hal newhouser, and al kaline. since he played before numbers were used, this makes sense that he would be honored by the franchise in this manner. cobb retired as the all-time leader in hits and stolen bases, won 12 batting titles, a triple crown, and has the highest career batting average in history at .366. he was a first class hall of famer and considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all-time.

"crawford" sam crawford (honored by the tigers) - 2002 topps tribute
crawford's last name showed up on the brick wall beyond right-centerfield at comerica park, along with the players below (and announcer ernie harwell). crawford began his career with three seasons in cincinnati but spent the next 15 years with the tigers. he is the all-time leader in triples with 309, and he led the league in that category six times, four as a tiger. he is the only player in history to have more than 300 triples. he was inducted in the hall of fame in 1957.

"cochrane" mickey cochrane (honored by the tigers) - 2003 fleer flair greats
cochrane played for the tigers the final four years of his career, winning the american league mvp in 1934, his first year with the club. he was also the team's manager during that time, and guided the club to pennants in '34 and 1935, taking home the world series title in '35 for the franchise's first championship. he was the first catcher elected to the hall of fame when he made it in 1947, and he was also the person that mickey mantle was named after even though cochrane himself was not named mickey. he did wear number 3 for the tigers once they adopted numbers, but only his name appears on the comerica park wall.

"heilmann" harry heilmann (honored by the tigers) - 2002 topps tribute
heilmann won four batting titles in the 1920's for the tigers, with his .403 average in 1923 marking a career best. following his retirement, he became a broadcaster for the tigers and stayed in that role for 17 years up until his death in july of 1951. he was voted in to the hall of fame the following year, but ty cobb told him on his deathbed that he had been voted in, so even though cobb was a year early in his prediction, heilmann passed away knowing he was a hall of famer.
"jennings" hughie jennings (honored by the tigers) - 1993 conlon tsn
jennings managed the tigers for 14 seasons, from 1907 through 1920. he won pennants in each of his first three seasons with the club, but no more after that. he was elected to the hall of fame as a player in 1945, and although he inserted himself in to the lineup a handful of times while with the tigers as their manager, his hall of fame status as a player is not based on what he did in detroit. i wonder if his managerial record was taken in to account by the veteran's committee when they cast their votes that year.
"kell" george kell (honored by the tigers) - 2003 fleer flair greats
kell played in the 1940's and 1950's but wore a couple of different numbers as a tiger, so they chose to honor him by name only - perhaps because his affiliation with the team extended beyond his playing career. he spent just seven of his 15 seasons as a tiger, winning the american league batting title in 1949 with a .343 average that just narrowly surpassed ted williams' average that year. after he retired following the 1957 season, kell went in to broadcasting and announced tiger games until he retired for good in 1997.

"manush" heinie manush (honored by the tigers) - 2003 topps gallery hall of fame edition artist proof
manush began his career with the tigers in 1923. he played for them through the 1927 season, winning a batting title in 1926 by hitting .378 giving the tigers an outfield (manush, cobb, and heilmann) replete with batting titles. he finished his career with a .320 average, over 2,500 hits, and a hall of fame induction in 1964. most of his post-career cards show him with the senators which makes sense as he was a part of their 1933 world series team, so i was glad to have this tiger card in my collection even though it appears to show a number on his back - something that he didn't have as a tiger.

honoring pre-number players is something that i've always thought that the dodgers should have done for zach wheat. i think a "b" medallion would look great with the retired numbers and microphones on the left field club level facade at dodger stadium.

i am going to track a few things as we go, even though the information is already available elsewhere.

retired numbers by team (shown in chronological order of their first number retirement):

yankees - 4
giants - 4
pirates - 4
red sox - 4
orioles - 4
dodgers - 4
white sox - 4
brewers - 4
major league baseball
blue jays

retired number frequency:

4 - retired by 8 teams
unnumbered players - honored by 4 teams

running total of unique hall of famers (including those without numbers): 20

running total of non-hall of famers (including those without numbers):


  1. Great work here Jim. Learned a lot about these legendary players, and how their teams have honored them. I was wondering if we'll see any more pre-expansion players recognized in the future - and then you mentioned Zach Wheat. So I guess there are still players left from this era who could see their "number" retired in the future.

  2. Tigers dominated this post. Knew most of them... but wasn't familiar with Manush or Jennings.

  3. Sounds like the Cardinals didn't want to give up #'s 4 or 6. It seems like the card companies have been using the same 2 or 3 photos of Grover Alexander for decades now, so it's quite something to see that one that UD used. I've never seen used for anything before!