Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Retired Numbers

It would appear that the Red Sox are thinking about revising the criteria they use to retire uniform numbers. It looks like this will be done to retire Johnny Pesky’s number this Saturday. While I admire the sentiment, I don’t like the “watering down” of the retired number.

For whatever reason, the Sox decided on three criteria for retiring a number. That the player be a member of the Baseball hall of Fame. That the Player played at least 10 years with the Sox. That the Player finished his career with the Sox. As far as I’m concerned, those are great criteria. It requires that the player be great, by making Hall of Fame enshrinement mandatory. It makes the player have a long Red Sox career of at least 10 years. That eliminates the rental Hall of Famers that some other teams may honor. The ending of the career with the Red Sox is nice, but a little harder to hold anyone to. It would be like the Bruins not retiring Bobby Orr’s number because he played that last year in Chicago. In fact, the Sox themselves fudged it with Fisk by including his front office work as a career ending. But, by and large, those are great criteria. When the Yankees started retiring numbers, it was a pretty big honor. I can never remember if Ruth or Gehrig was first, but it doesn’t matter. The idea being, that the player was so magnificent, it would be a shame to see their number worn by a lesser player. It was especially significant for those two Yankees because they were the first players to ever wear those numbers. In fact, Gehrig is the only person to have ever worn number 4 for the Yankees. That’s a pretty big deal, for a pretty big player.

I don’t think I’m insulting anyone to suggest that Johnny Pesky is not Lou Gehrig. He’s not Babe Ruth, he’s not Ted Williams, or Carl Yastrzemski. He’s a wonderful player. He’s been the heart of the Red Sox for more than a half-century. He deserves to be honored. But, he doesn’t quite meet the criteria set for a number retirement. I did not feel that Bill Buckner sullied the awesome reputation of number 6 by wearing it on his back. (Ok, maybe that was a bad example) Besides, since number 6 has been worn countless times over the years, it’s not like they’re retiring Pesky’s number. It’s also Buckner’s number, and whoever else wore the number over the years. They’re simply retiring number 6 “in honor” of Johnny Pesky. There must be another way to do something “in honor” of Pesky.

I always liked statues, and don’t think the Sox have enough of them. Other stadiums have statues littered about of their great players. Fenway has the one of Williams, but wouldn’t it be great if there were more? Imagine statues of Rice and Yaz and Pesky clogging the sidewalks of Van Ness St. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to meet your friends at the Pesky statue? I know the concourse underneath the stands is pretty crowded, but that’s another place to throw some monuments. If they can fit in a plastic Wally sitting on a bench, a nice statue to Tony C should be easy. They don’t even have to be big things. The Red Auerbach statue in Quincy Market doesn’t take up much room. Imagine Fred Lynn sitting at one space at one of the picnic tables? How about a simple statue of Bill Buckner’s high-top spikes, similar to Bird’s shoes.

Retiring a uniform number is a huge honor. Just because other teams have weakened it by retiring the likes of Harold Baines or Don Mattingly doesn’t mean the Sox have to. There are other ways to honor a player, and say how much they mean to a team and it fans.

I like statues.

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