Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inspired by Uni Watch: Sacred Uniform Numbers by City

Yesterday, I shared a thought in the Uni Watch comments section.  Today, it became the basis of a column.  Here it is in the Uni Watch context.  Instead of reprinting all of Phil's text here, why don't you check it out over there?
OK, now that you're back, here is what I had in mind for "sacred uniform numbers by city."
  • First off, you have to consider the whole city.  Yes, Wayne Gretzky has the most sacred uniform number in professional sports history, and he happened to wear it in St. Louis (brief stint with the Blues in between the Kings and the Rangers), but there is no way his #99 is more sacred to St. Louis than #1 (Ozzie Smith and Mike Liut) or #2 (Red Schoendeinst and Al MacInnis).  In other words, longevity and "range" are key factors.
  • In general, the number should be retired at least once, while having been worn by notable athletes in other sports within the city.  (It's OK to consider "imminent" retired numbers, like Nicklas Lidstrom's #5 that the Red Wings will surely retire.)
  • Don't even bother with one-team towns.  Makes for an incredibly boring exercise.  Three-sport cities need one significant number in two sports, while four-sport cities should have one number in three sports.
  • In addition, I only consider university numbers on a case-by-case basis, and as "bonus" consideration.  Obviously, those who follow the NCAA more passionately than I do will give more merit to the collegiate numbers.
So, in no particular order, this is what I (unless otherwise credited) came up with:
  • Boston: I settled on #33.  I considered #4, but I figured that since Larry Bird and Bobby Orr cancel out as Mt. Rushmore players, #33 had more "reach" across all sports than #4.
    • NBA (Celtics): Retired for Larry Bird.
    • MLB (Red Sox): Jason Varitek, team captain, two World Series
    • NHL (Bruins): Zdeno Chara, team captain, one Stanley Cup
    • NFL (Patriots): Kevin Faulk, key player
      • Honorable mention to Boston #4.
        • MLB (Red Sox): Retired for Joe Cronin
        • NHL (Bruins): Retired for Bobby Orr
        • NFL (Patriots): Adam Vinatieri, Super Bowl-winning kicker.
  • Seattle: #24
    • NBA (Sonics): Was retired for Dennis Johnson.
    • MLB (Mariners): Was unofficially retired for Ken Griffey, Jr. the minute he left.  Should be officially retired at any moment.
    • NFL (Seahawks): Shawn Springs.  He's not Zorn or Largent, but he was definitely a longtime contributor to the Seahawks, and was generally the best player on his team.
  • Montreal: #10 (despite #9's lofty status on Rocket Richard's legacy alone)
    • MLB (Expos): Was retired TWICE for André Dawson and Rusty Staub
    • NHL (Canadiens): Retired for Guy LaFleur, who, as evidenced by his hero's return to the Quebec Nordiques, had some provincial reach, just like Rocket.
  • Houston: #34 (this was a slam dunk)
    • MLB (Astros): Retired for Nolan Ryan
    • NFL (Oilers): Retired for Earl Campbell, albeit for the Tennessee Titans now.
    • NBA (Rockets): Retired for Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Los Angeles: #32 (Another slam dunk)
    • MLB (Dodgers): Retired for Sandy Koufax
    • NFL (Raiders): Worn famously by Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen.  (The Raiders do not retire numbers).
    • NBA (Lakers): Retired for Magic Johnson
    • NBA (Clippers): Currently worn by Blake Griffin.
    • NHL (Kings): Once worn by Kelly Hrudey, currently being worn by Jonathan Quick.  Two talented goalies.
    • Bonus points of NCAA consideration: Bill Walton (UCLA basketball); O.J. Simpson (USC football)
The discussion continues on that Uni Watch page.  Who do you have?

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