Which Dynasty-Era Yankees Should Have Their Numbers Retired?

Watching the FOX game this weekend, the announcers were having a conversation about retiring Mariano Rivera’s #42. The conversation wasn’t particularly interesting (“Oh yeah, I guess they’d just have two #42s retired!), but it did get me thinking. The Yankees are going to have a long list of numbers to potentially retire soon, as the last of the dynasty-era Yankees see their careers wind down. Some decisions will be easy, but others require some debate.

The Yankees have retired numbers for the following players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Thurmon Munson, Billy Martin, Don Mattingly, Ron Guidry, Casey Stengal, Reggie Jackson, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard and Roger Maris.

The first thing I wanted to do was determine how many numbers the Yankees should retire based upon the dynasty they put together and precedent. Dividing dynasties and eras up is difficult – they don’t follow clean lines. But I think we should divide it up into the following eras: The Ruth-Gehrig (Retired Billy Dickey, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig) teams of the 20s and 30s, the Joe McCarthy and Joe DiMaggio-led teams (Retired DiMaggio, Dickey) of the 30s and 40s, the Casey Stengal mega-dynasty (Retired Mantle, Berra, Maris, Ford, Rizzuto, Stengal, Howard and arguably Billy Martin) , the late-70s early Steinbrenner championships (Munson, Guidry, Jackson, Martin) and the Torre dynasty. Those groups cover every retired Yankee number except for Don Mattingly. Seven are from the Stengal dynasty, five are combined from the McCarthy and Ruth teams, and four are from the late-70s teams.

From all of those teams, the Yankees retired all of the no-doubt all time Hall of Fame greats (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Ford, Berra, Stengal, Dickey), and a bunch of guys with special circumstances (Howard, Munson, Martin, Rizzuto, Maris).. Reggie Jackson stands out as a HOF player who played the majority of his career away from New York, as do Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry as Hall of Very Gooders who were fan favorites, but not all-time greats.

That’s all a long way of saying that the Yankees do not have a history of retiring every top player who was a contributor to a major dynasty. The Yankee Hall of Famers – Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera – should definitely have their number retired. All the other candidates are debatable:

  • Andy Pettitte
  • Bernie Williams
  • Jorge Posada
  • Joe Torre
  • Paul O’Neil
  • Joe Girardi
  • Mike Mussina

O’Neil, Torre, Bernie, and Mussina have had their numbers de facto retired since they left the team, as no one else has been issued it. I left A-Rod out, who I think should be considered a member of another era.

Right off the bat, I think that Joe Girardi could get his number retired, but only after a long, successful, championship-laden managerial career. What number they choose to retire 45, 25, 27, 32 (after 5 more WS), would be debatable, but its irrelevent right now. He was a member of the dynasty teams, but his time as a manager is more important.

I also don’t think that any of these candidates fall into the special circumstances category. Munson’s death was a powerful tragedy, Howard broke important ground, Billy Martin was an all-time character, Maris held the record, and Rizzuto was a beloved announcer on television.

The best players of the group were Pettitte, Bernie, and Posada. All three have borderline HOF cases in their own right. Posada and Pettitte also won a 5th World Series in another era. That should push those two over the edge. Bernie and Paul O’Neil are another matter entirely. O’Neil would probably be the worst non-circumstances player to have his number retired. He would also have the second-shortest tenure in New York, after Reggie Jackson. I’m sitting at my desk looking at a signed Paul O’Neil baseball from 1998, but I can’t say that he’s worthy of a monument park spot, given the precedent. Bernie Williams, on the other hand, was both a career Yankee and a better player than O’Neil. I think he’s in. I don’t see any case for Mike Mussina, honestly.

Anyone who has been reading what I’ve written for awhile knows that I have no love for Joe Torre. He would not be the most successful Yankee manager not to have his number retired – McCarthy holds that honor, and Miller Huggins has an argument.

So, my vote is Bernie, Jeter, Mo, Posada and Pettitte in, Girardi on hold, and O’Neil, Mussina, and Torre out. The five retired numbers would slightly over represent the dynasty versus other great Yankee teams, but not in the extreme sense. Still, I think that an argument at least exists for Paul O’Neil and Joe Torre, and I’m willing to argue them.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

33 thoughts on “Which Dynasty-Era Yankees Should Have Their Numbers Retired?

  1. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera, Torre (despite my distaste for hime), and Williams yes. The others, no, though I do love me some Moose.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      +1. Exactly my feelings.

  2. Miller Huggins’ and Joe McCarthy’s numbers aren’t retired because Yankee managers didn’t wear numbers when those two were helming the club. Both have plaques in Monument Park.

    • Yeah, Torre is definitely getting his number retired if guys like Andy and Bernie are getting it.

    • Huggins has more than a plaque…he has a monument (the first one ever in fact). Huggins often gets overlooked, but he was one of the most influential people responible for building the Yankees first run of success and should rank shoulder-to-shoulder with all the team’s legends.

  3. Hmm. I am interviewing Bernie tomorrow. Think I should ask him if he thinks he deserves a spot in monument park?

    • humblebrag without the humble, always a good time.

      • I actually just wanted people’s opinions on whether I should ask it or not. Might be a touchy topic for him.

        • Cris Pengiuci

          If I read Bernie correctly, he’ll likely say while he’d be honored by having his number retired, he’ll leave that to the Yankees to decide. His opinion on the subject doesn’t matter that much.

          That being said, go ahead, ask! (I’d like to see if I’m right!) Congrats on getting the interview with him. Ask a lot of questions about his musical career!

  4. Since no one asked me, for the post-modern era (1994-present) here are the retirement candidates:

    Lead Pipe Locks: 2, 6, 13, 42
    Very Probable: 20, 35, 51
    Possible: 21, 55 (with credit for uniqueness)

    I’d also be okay with the Yankees establishing a Black Ink/Gray Ink/Award system, similar to how UNC does retired numbers. Some uniform standards for retiring uniforms.

  5. Joe G

    Wait I’m confused, did I read that right? Torre out and Girardi in? EJ I’m a big fan of your writing, but this is article is all over the place. Girardi was a bit player in the Yankee championship years of the 90s.(although his triple in ’96 is still one of my favorite memories). That aside he’s won one championship, and has only been manager of the team for 3 1/2 years. He’d have to go on some run to even be in the conversation.

    That said, I don’t like retiring numbers for managers. Rarely are managers associated with their numbers by fans. If anything, I like the idea of a plague for managers, which is a better way to remember them in my eyes.

    I do think they’re retire Bernie’s number when he “officially” retires (they made mention of this on Centerstage when Bernie was the guest). Everyone else is unlikely to me.

  6. Phil C

    Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera, Torre, and Williams yes. I’d also vote for Stottlemyre and Nettles.

  7. Pete G

    Jeter and Rivera for sure.

    Pettitte and Williams are a strong maybe.

    Posada, Mussina, Torre, and Girardi are a “No” for me.

    As much as I love some Paul O’Neil, I don’t think he makes it either. Although I would love to see it retired.

  8. CraftyLefty

    I know people get sensitive when you criticize their spelling, but continuously misspelling Paul O’Neill and Casey Stengel’s names weakens your overall argument.
    I hope that autographed O’Neill ball has 2 L’s on it; or you got ripped off.

  9. Nick

    Jeter, Rivera and probably Posada.
    I think retiring numbers is silly, but jeter and Mo will get his retired

  10. Amskollar

    I’m certain girardi won’t wear number 32… Already retired

  11. jay destro

    EJ you are the weakest link of the TYA writers. this is pure fluff garbage, there are twenty other topics going on with the NYY you could have spent time on, but you wrote this dreck.

    great job.

  12. Cris Pengiuci

    If he gets the HR record as a Yankee, no doubt his number is retired. If not, he needs more accomplishments as a Yankee. More WS rings, other all-time Yankee records, etc. He’s a great player, possibly the best or one of the best all time, but I think he needs some significant Yankee accomplishments. Reggie had his WS moment. That probably put him over the top. ARod, in my opnion, doesn’t have what it takes … yet. I do think he’ll get there though.

    • He won two MVP awards and has been the best 3B in team history. As for a WS moment, he had it already. Hell, the entire 2009 playoffs were made up if A-Rod moments.

      • Justice Beaver

        I agree he should be, as well. I was just curious what others thought, primarily because of the PED nonsense.

  13. Justice Beaver

    Regardless of another era do you think Arod gets 13 retired if he breaks the all time HR record as a Yankee.

    • I think it should be retired, regardless of HR record.

  14. Duh, Innings!

    Andy Pettitte – Yes. Prominent member of all five World Series Champion Yankee teams 1996, 1998-2000, 2009 plus the two A.L. Champion teams 2001 and 2003. The ace or the #2 depending on the year. Name me a year he was the #3 or worse, I can’t. The best Yankees lefty starter after Whitey Ford. We’ll never know if the 2004 Yankees would’ve won it all had Pettitte stayed with the Yankees and pitched Game 7 of the 2004 A.L.C.S. over Kevin Brown. I think Pettitte would’ve done alot better than Brown. Again, we’ll never know, and you can blame Steinbrenner’s bluster for why Pettitte opted for Houston after ’03. I’m pretty sure Pettitte never forgot when Steinbrenner wanted to trade him to Detroit for Justin Thompson straight up (the greatest Yankees trade Steinbrenner wanted to do never made after Bernie Williams to Boston for Darren Lewis.) Money pitcher in the postseason. MONEY. Also a money pitcher after a postseason loss including a Game 1 loss.

    Bernie Williams – Yes. He was The Main Man behind the pitchers 1996-2003. When I think of that era everyday player-wise, the first names that come to my mind are Jeter and Williams. Core Four? Since when? Try Core Five and Bernie was the First Core Five Man (1991.) Core Four is a diss to Bernie. A lifelong Yankee like Rivera and Jeter will most likely be, Posada could be, and Pettitte will never be. Prime Bernie batted mostly cleanup and sometimes third, but never lower than cleanup in the W.S. and A.L. title years and as late as 2002. He was the first significant homegrown piece to the dynasty puzzle to play in big club digs, again beginning his Yankee career in 1991, the year Pettitte and Rivera were drafted and a year before Jeter was (I forget when Posada was drafted.) He was the primary reason why Gene Michael swapped Roberto Kelly for Paul O’Neill in November 1992. Michael wanted/needed Bernie in CF and lefthanded power 1990-91 Mattingly didn’t provide. Goodbye nice player Kelly, hello potential and later actual steal O’Neill.

    Jorge Posada – No. He was never a good defensive catcher. He never won let alone contended for a Gold Glove. Posada was a great DH masquerading as a so-so catcher. He never batted higher than fifth and has been a sixth-seventh place hitter most of his career. Him catching is overrated. Mike Piazza was a better hitter and run producer than he was. Ivan Rodriguez was a better defensive catcher than he was. Piazza will be a first-ballot Hall Of Famer while I-Rod will get in on his Gold Gloves alone and spare me he cheated. You would, too, if you went what he went through behind the plate, and how does steroids really help you win Gold Gloves hmmm? It’s fair to say he wasn’t a cheater in his prime when you look at film of his body. Besides that, he was known more for his defense than his offense early in his career from the I believe TEN STRAIGHT GOLD GLOVES he won beginning in his first full season. Shall we look at Omar Vizquel and wonder how he won all those Gold Gloves and how the hell he’s still playing at age 45 or some shit?

    Joe Torre – Yes. Managed the Yankees to four World Series titles and six World Series appearances when no one expected him to last through his first or second year managing the Yankees. Say what you want about him, and I’ll include myself in that cuz I said plenty about him haha – the Yankees never missed the postseason under him. Even his biggest postseason fuckup – not storming out of the dugout and demanding the midges be shooed away from rookie Joba – was memorable. I never thought “What is he gonna do next?” like I think with Girardi who I can’t make heads or tails of.

    Paul O’Neill – No. As much as I loved his style of play and production, he was not on the level of prime Jeter, Williams, or Tino Martinez. All three, Knoblauch, Brosius, and Posada played more difficult positions than he did. Yes, he was the primary protection for early-prime Jeter 1996-2001, but prime Bernie had his back in the cleanup slot 1996-2001 and Jeter had eight more very good to MVP candidate/winner-caliber years in the #2 with a little bit of leading off after O’Neill retired.

    Joe Girardi – Absolutely not. Yeah, he won three World Series as a Yankee player 1996, 1998, and 1999 and managed the Yankees to another World Series victory in 2009, but he was a minor player on the 1996 team he was lucky to be traded to (Don Zimmer recommended Girardi to Bob Watson from Zimmer’s days of managing the Cubs with a rookie/young Girardi) and one could seriously argue (Girardi) was along for the ride in 2009. He was a part-time player 1998-99 who lost his job to Posada by 1999 and still harbors resentment as evidenced by that ridiculous penning Posada ninth without asking Posada at least a day or two before doing so as Posada is of the stature to deserve such a meeting. The only way I retire Girardi’s number is if he manages the Yankees to three World Series Championships total. He has this year and the next two to do that. Just because Girardi was a minor or secondary player on four World Series winning Yankees teams doesn’t make him a retired number guy. Besides that he shared catching with Posada 1998-99 thus was the Yankees starting catcher not sharing the position with anyone for only one year: his first one, 1996.

    Mike Mussina – Absolutely not. He tanked in Game 1 of the 2001 World Series and was never a good postseason pitcher for the Yankees save the start where Jeter’s flip-throw to homeplate saved the game and was the most memorable part of it and a 2004 A.L.C.S. Game 7 relief appearance (or was it the 2003 A.L.C.S. Game 7?) He was so-so in the 2003 World Series where he was almost outdueled by Carl Pavano. The Yankees never won a World Series with him. His best seasons as a Yankee were his first and last ones. Besides that, he showed he was all about his comfort when he retired after his first 20-win season and finest season considering his age and low expectations of him coming into 2008. He also retired a year before the new Yankee Stadium was to open. I hope that year of doing nothing was worth it, Mussina. Too bad you didn’t call your wife’s bluff when she threatened to divorce you if you played one more year? What else when you come off a 20-win season and making I believe $15M for it? Bitches (him and his wife.) When your best season out of eight as a Yankee is your first one and your best postseason start as a Yankee is in your first season, you are not a retired number player. And he is not a Hall Of Famer even with 270 wins cuz he never won a Cy Young Award, he won 20 games only once, he never led the league in ERA or strikeouts (or did he?), and he wasn’t good in the postseason. Not to mention I could and will list at least ten starting pitchers who pitched when he did better than him – they are Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay, Nolan Ryan (pitched in Mussina’s rookie year of 1991), Pedro Martinez, David Wells, David Cone, and Dwight Gooden (that’s right, Dwight won a Cy Young Award, strikeout titles, and two World Series including one with the team he started with and as a Yankee, and he hurled a no-hitter, what Mussina never did.) I don’t care about stats, all those guys were better than Mussina and guys I would haven given the ball to for a Game 7 over Mussina. Six of them were Yankees and four pitched in the same rotation as Mussina (Cone and Gooden being the two who weren’t with the Yankees when Mussina was.)

    • Bexy

      Moose in his only game in the 2003 World Series gave up one run over seven innings while striking out nine. He outdueled Josh Beckett, the series MVP.

      So-so.

      (I don’t think he should get his number retired at all, but get your facts straight. And calling him contemporaries with Ryan and Gooden because their careers overlapped for a couple of years here and there is ludicrous. And yeah – he was significantly better than Andy.)

  15. bornwithpinstripes

    JETER and MARIANO.. thats it..no arod down the road..torre never for my money..see if i can make a point..if you have to think yes ,maybe..then that person’s # should not be. this is an honor that will last forever..a very special place.not tokenism or he was a nice guy..jeter has set lots of records, was from our farm system.. face of yanks and baseball. what can you say about MO.. he should be in the HOF the year he retires .he should not have to wait.. if andy stayed a yank and didn’t bolt, i may have said yes.. we won with girardi same as posada.. so maybe we would have won with another catcher.. same with bernie and the others..no enough impact on the game overall. if you can prove posada was better than yogi, ok..but that can not be done..

  16. Goose54

    Call me old fashioned, but I think a number should be retired only when there is nobody else that will ever be able to wear the number to the caliber of the original player. Mantle, Ruth, etc, obviously fit that bill. 42 should be retired across the league – no brainer.

    Out of the ones listed above, only Jeter and Mo fit that bill. Just because someone is a star doesn’t mean we should retire their number. I’m a huge Paul O’Neill fan – even still wear an authentic “21″ jersey to the game, and talk of retiring O’Neill, Girardi, Mussina, and Posada is laughable.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      second that..

  17. oldpep

    Bernie, Mo, Arod, and Derek.

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  19. Professor Longnose

    I’d say yes to Posada before Pettitte. He has a better HOF case and he’s a life-long Yankee.

  20. Will do. Thanks for the feedback. I should have the interview results posted at around 6 tomorrow.

  21. RobNYY4Eva

    Jeter, Mo, Williams & Posada are no brainers. Jeter and Mo are future hall of famers, arguably Willams as well. All 4 are career Yankees and part of the 96,98-00 WS teams, with Jeter, Posado and Mo adding 09 to that. Pettite most likely due to his huge roles in 5 World Series. As much as some dislike Torre, he led the Yanks to 4 WS in 5 years, he will have his retired as well.

    The remaining 3:
    Paul O’Neil
    •Joe Girardi
    •Mike Mussina

  22. RobNYY4Eva

    Jeter, Mo, Williams & Posada are no brainers. Jeter and Mo are future hall of famers, arguably Willams as well. All 4 are career Yankees and part of the 96,98-00 WS teams, with Jeter, Posado and Mo adding 09 to that. Pettite most likely due to his huge roles in 5 World Series. As much as some dislike Torre, he led the Yanks to 4 WS in 5 years, he will have his retired as well.

    The remaining 3:

    Paul O’Neill – I love this guy, and the fact that the Yanks have not re-issued this number since his retirement is a pretty good arguement in itself that this number will probably be retired, I can see an arguement for not. He wasn’t one of the standouts, thought he was there for the 4 WS wins. This one may be retired due to that and the fact that he is a fan favorite, a huge reason besides being a career Yankee that Mattingly’s number was retired.

    Joe Girardi – Limited role in the WS years, but led the 2009 win, this will happen if he ends up with a two or three more WS championships as a mgr. The question will be what number..25? his player number, or 27,28,29…if he changes it every year they win one..

    Mike Mussina – Again, I am a huge fan of this guy. I love Moose. But he is probably the least likely to have his number retired in this list. Missed out on the WS, and never had standout performance in the Postseason, short of the relief appearance in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Though he did win 3 gold gloves under the Yanks. But, they haven’t re-issued this number either so who knows.

    Bottom line most of these guys deserve it, if not all of them, just a question of if the powers that be will agree..

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