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I can envision the day 20 years from now when New York Yankees lead-off hitter will wear the number 98, 73 or even 01. It’s surely going to happen because of the silly rate this franchise is handing out plaques and retired jerseys like candy. I guess we can call the Yankees the “Pez-Dispensers” of Major League Baseball.
This past Sunday marked the Yankees' 68th annual “Old-Timers Day,” according to MLB.com. It was a grand day. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were carted onto the field to the cheers to many. Smiles and jokes were contagious as memories were shared throughout the clubhouse and field. Jessie Barfield even hit a home run (a rare occasion in this event).
However, even the most aloof Yankee fan cannot help but realize they have gone too far and are now making a mockery of their history.
Former Yankee pitcher Goose Gossage, who played less than six full seasons for the team, was presented with a plaque for their famed “Monument Park” behind center field in Yankee Stadium, according to USA Today. A day earlier, they handed a plaque out to former first-baseman Tino Martinez, who played only seven seasons with the club.
With those two new additions, there are now 28 plaques in “Monument Park” to go along with their ridiculous 17 retired numbers which includes Jackie Robinson (retired by all of baseball).
If we look ahead to the retired jerseys of #2 Derek Jeter, #6 Joe Torre and #42 Mariano Rivera, then they will reach the big 20 mark.
It is absurd to think about.
We all know who started this avalanche - George Steinbrenner, who capitalized on Yankee tradition by having one ceremony after another to rake in that income. Any excuse of a reason to retire another player’s jersey, and oops, a ceremony was had.
A lot of old-time Yankee fans remember the days of the big-three - #3 Ruth, #4 Gehrig and #5 DiMaggio - realizing that #7 Mantle would join the fray. Unfortunately those times are gone. Instead of truly keeping the honor special, through greed and whatever else you’d like to call it, the Yankees have simply stuffed us with maximum quantity over quality and now they are going to start paying for it in years to come.
With Jeter and Torre to eventually be retired, none of the numbers one through 10, will ever be worn again by a member of the franchise.
Let's be honest for a moment: should the likes of Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Thurmon Munson, Phil Rizzuto, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Casey Stengel and Bill Dickey be retired? No chance. Some of these guys only played a few years with the team (Reggie Jackson for example only five seasons). That is personally insulting to me as a Yankee fan.
Only the true legends of the franchise should be on that list - #3 Babe Ruth, #4 Lou Gehrig, #5 Joe DiMaggio, #7 Mickey Mantle, #8 Yogi Berra and #16 Whitey Ford. Instead of having 17, the real list should be cut to six players, with #2 Derek Jeter and #42 Mariano Rivera to join eventually.
Mattingly would be an interesting one, as he will remain in the hearts of many fans forever, but honestly should not make the cut. If you have to think about whether they are worthy or not, then they are probably not. Only the greatest of the greats should be there.
Because of the glutton of numbers retired, the “plaque” they now use has been sort of a substitute. It allows for a ceremony, but the actual number can still be used for future pinstripers.
We are now entering a time in Yankee history where “Old-Timers Day” is going to get a little more fun again as the late 90’s dynasty will join the bunch. It’s completely obvious that the franchise is trying to capitalize on that team’s popularity in every way (for example Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams).
It’s fantastic to now have older Yankee fans tell their son about “those days.” But be careful Yankees, do not go overboard to the point where our future Yankee "Hall of Famer" is forced to wear the number double-zero (00).