The New York Yankees have more non-working numbers than Ma Bell. The team has most recently announced that three more uniform numbers are going on the shelf permanently, those worn by Bernie Williams (51), Andy Pettitte (46), and Jorge Posada (20).
These are all worthy players, but all short of Hall of Fame credentials. And Pettitte didn’t even spend his entire career with the Pin Stripes. So, with no disrespect meant to these three fine ballplayers, it’s reasonable to ask, where does this stop? And at a certain point, what will the Yankees do for uniform numbers for current players?
Before this week’s announcement, the Yankees has already retired 18 uniform numbers, including all of the single digits (They’re all here if you’re curious — Derek Jeter’s #2 isn’t on the list yet but soon will be). Now the team is up to 21 numbers off the training table.
Even before the new retirements, the Yankees number crunch was acute. This is why in spring training last year, the time when the big club is looking at minor leaguers and has a reinforced battalion of players in camp, I saw an apple-cheeked AA outfielder who might start shaving any day now, come into a game late wearing the number 106 5/8.
If the Yankees continue to win championships and retire the numbers of players of the Williams/Posada caliber, by mid-century some Yankee players may be wearing algorithms on their backs.