When Derek's Jeter's number is retired, it will be the end of the line of single-digit numbers over the hallowed blue pinstripes.
The Yankees officially took Joe Torre's No. 6 out of circulation yesterday while Jeter's No. 2 is a formality away from joining his and the other sacred numbers -- 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 23, 32, 37, 42, 44 and 49 -- on the wall in Monument Park.
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The first team to likely retire all their single numbers was also the first to place numbers on uniforms, starting the practice in 1929. Initially, the numbers were assigned based on the starting position players' everyday spot in the batting order -- Babe Ruth batted third, Lou Gehrig fourth. By 1937, Major League Baseball made it a requirement for all teams to issue numbers.
The Yankees were the first big-league baseball team to retire a numeral when they bestowed the honor on the terminally ill Gehrig in 1939.
It wasn't until 1954 that a team outside New York retired a number -- Pirates manager Billy Meyer's No. 1
Jackie Robinson's No. 42 was offically retired across the board by Major League Baseball in 2007. Mariano Rivera's No. 42, which was grandfathered from the MLB edict, was retired after he pitched his last game in 2013.
Including Rivera, the Yankees -- with 17 -- have the longest list of retired numbers. But the most impressive are the soon-to be-extinct single digits:
Number retired Aug. 10, 1986
Fittingly and owing to his stormy relationship with owner George Steinbrenner, Martin was brought back to manage the Yankees for a fifth time in 1988 -- two years after his number was retired. "George always came back to him because my father wasn't a 'Yes' man,'" Billy Martin Jr. said. "It may not have always been what he wanted to hear, but it was the truth, at least my father's perception of it. Their relationship was truly love-hate. He respected his loyalty and desire to win. It drove me crazy that he always wanted to be there, he was gaunt, pale, and malnourished. He loved the Yankees more than he hated putting up with what he had to be there. He'd say 'I'm a Yankee. I'm just not happy anywhere else.' "
Martin said his father and Steinbrenner had been talking about a sixth stint with the Yankees before Martin died in an automobile accident on Christmas Day in 1989. Bobby Richardson and Bobby Murcer also wore No. 1 during their Yankees career.
June 13, 1948
Ruth, diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck less than two years earlier, was honored in what would be his last public appearance at Yankee Stadium. He died on Aug. 16. Unlike Gehrig, perhaps the greatest player in baseball history did not have sole ownership of his number. Outfielder Cliff Mapes, who would go on to wear three legendary Yankee numbers, was the last Yankee to wear No. 3 -- in 1948. When he got to meet Ruth during the ceremony retiring his number, it was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream for Mapes and his family. "His dad was bound and determined for him to become a baseball player," said Mapes' daughter, Jan Mapes Cobler. "When he was born his dad went and told everybody he was going to be the new Babe Ruth. He was excited about wearing that number.''
Jan. 6, 1940
The myth is that Gehrig's number was retired on July 4, 1939, on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. Gehrig, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the then-little known incurable disease recently brought to the forefront of society by the Ice Bucket Challenge, played his last game two months earlier after amassing a then-record 2,130 consecutive games. But the Yankees say the team officially retired Gehrig's number on Jan. 6, 1940 in an announcement made by team president Ed Barrow. Gehrig died June 2, 1941 at age 37.
Gehrig was the only Yankee to wear the number, which was assigned in 1929.
Aug. 23, 2014
Torre is the third Hall of Fame Yankee to wear No. 6. Tony Lazzeri, who also wore Yankees retired numbers 5, 7 and 23, had No. 6 for five seasons. Lazzeri does not have a retired number, and is not in Monument Park. "It would nice to see him there," grandson Matthew Lazzeri said. "If it's an oversight or some sort of qualification that hasn't been met that's one thing. His years and being in the Hall of Fame should put him in good standing, I would think, with other people that are in there. But it's never been an issue with us."
Second baseman Joe Gordon, who played mostly in the 1940s, also wore No. 6. He was inducted posthumously into Cooperstown in 2009.
Roy White wore No. 6 for 11 seasons. "You can't play for the Yankees and not be cognizant of the retired numbers," he said. "That's one of the first things you knew about the Yankees, the numbers that were retired. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio."
White assumed the number would be retired one day but "Not from me. I figured sooner or later somebody would have No. 6 that would be great enough to have that number enshrined in Monument Park. A lot of people told me I had No. 6 longer than anybody in history. I told a lot of people when I go by there I can point and say 'Hey, there's my number in Monument Park.' "
Outstanding defensive third basemen Clete Boyer also wore No. 6. Tony Fernandez was the last Yankee before Torre to have the number. "I'm sure they will remember Joe more than they remember me," he said with a laugh.
June 8, 1969
"My dad always said that was his proudest moment," Danny Mantle said of his father's number being retired. "It was joining Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio."
Mantle was assigned No. 6 when he started his big-league career in 1951 but was sent down to the minors in July by Casey Stengel. "Dad said he didn't like the No. 6,' " his son said. "When he came back [from the minors] and put on No. 7 was really when he was playing good." His son said 1951 was basically the only season Mantle wasn't injured. "His knees were our alarm clock in the morning, so I knew what he went through," he said. "Maybe he used the alcohol for pain. He's my hero, I'll tell you that."
Dr. Bobby Brown, a Yankee who played shortstop and third, briefly wore No. 7. "I always thought he was the fastest human being I ever saw," Brown said of Mantle. "And I saw Olympic sprinters."
Mantle struck up a friendship with fellow Oklahoman Cliff Mapes, who had worn No. 7 and eventually was traded to make room for Mantle. Robert Taylor, Mapes' nephew, said Mantle wrote to Mapes after the trade, saying, "Sorry you had to be traded to make room for me. Sure am glad I got No. 7 because No. 6 wasn't worth a damn."
Mapes wore No. 5 when he went to the Tigers, the number that was later retired for Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. He also was No. 13 for the Yankees, now worn by Alex Rodriguez.
Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, an infielder in 1929, was the first Yankee to wear No. 7.
YOGI BERRA & BILL DICKEY
July 22, 1972
Both Yankee Hall of Fame catchers shared in the honor that day at the Stadium, though Yogi, then manager of the Mets, wasn't in attendance. In a recorded announcement, Berra said he was with "My Mets," and the crowd booed. Dickey reportedly said "Those boos, you know, are for the Mets, not Yogi." Berra has 10 World Series rings. At 89 and frail, Berra is seen at the Stadium for special occasions, including yesterday's ceremonial retiring of Joe Torre's number.
Dickey played with some legendary Yankees. "He was very close to Lou Gehrig," said Mary Neal Bridges, Dickey's niece. "They were roommates. He was the best man at his wedding and he told him about his illness. Another No. 8, catcher, John Grabowski, has some reflected glory attached to the number, which he received in 1929. He was on the famed 1927 Yankees. He had something of a day in his honor in 1926, though it was not organized by the Yankees. Some 2,500 fans from his hometown in Schenectady came down to the Stadium for "John Grabowski Day" and were given a lapel pin with Grabowski's name on it. Grabowski, who won two World Series rings with the Yankees, died at 46 from burns he sustained from a fire in his upstate home.
July 22, 1984
Maris, who held the single-season home run record of 61 for 38 years, died 18 months after being honored. Son Kevin wears the number as coach of a high school baseball team in Gainsville, Florida. "I issued it to myself in representation to him," Maris said. "I do it in honor of him. It was one of dad's proudest moments. Mr. Steinbrenner thought enough of him. Dad couldn't be more proud of that opportunity. I don't think that registered with him at the time that he was in the line of greatness. It was mere coincidence that there was a single digit."
It still stings the family, Kevin Maris said, that some still think Maris' 61 home runs in 1961, which broke Babe Ruth's then-single season home run record of 60, was affixed with an asterisk. Roger Maris believed that to be factual, too, his son said. "Howard Cosell came to our house one year in the early 1980s and said 'Hey, Rog, do you realize there was never as asterisk put in the record books?' Dad says. 'Really, I did not know that.' He lived most of his life thinking that."
Asked about his father's mark later being shattered by others, Kevin Maris said, "Maybe they should have a syringe instead of an asterisk."
Graig Nettles was the last Yankee to wear No. 9 before it was retired.
April 18, 1952
The Yankee Clipper originally wore No. 9 in 1936. Longtime attorney and friend Morris Engelberg said the Yankees told DiMaggio they wanted their three stars to be 3, 4 and 5. "His favorite number was 9, he had nine rings," Engelberg said. He said 'Thirteen years and nine rings, no better percentage in any sport.' "
Uniform No. 5 was not treated with any great reverence by DiMaggio, Engelberg said. "It used to be in a paper bag, then it hung in my closet for many years." When DiMaggio died in 1999, the uniform was sold and the proceeds went to DiMaggio's staff. "He collected nothing but money," Engleberg said.
Engelberg said Steinbrenner approached DiMaggio in the '90s, telling him he wanted to imortalize him in Monument Park. "Joe said, 'I'm still breathing, still alive, I'm not going into a memorial park.' He didn't want it until after he died." DiMaggio died on March 8, 1999. His monument was unveiled April 25 of that year.
DEREK JETER Jeter's number could be retired Sept. 7, when he will be given a day as his career draws to a close. The Yankees retired Mariano Rivera's No. 42 last September near the end of his final season.
Several weeks ago, Jeter, who never has worn another number in the big leagues, wondered if he would be asked to speak at his day. Rest assured, he will.
The first Yankee to wear No. 2 was Mark Koenig in 1929. Gail Terry, his daughter, said of Jeter, "My favorite guy, he's the best shortstop. Maybe they'll mention that my dad wore the same number, that would be kind of nice." Koenig was the last remaining member of the '27 Yankees when he died in 1993.
DiMaggio was introduced to Jeter at spring training in 1996, Morris Engelberg said. "George says to Joe, 'we got this kid Jeter. Joe, he's a Hall of Famer.' Joe said. 'How can you say that?' And Joe asked him, 'What's his number?' "
White said Jeter certainly will understand his place in the line of single-digit Yankees. "I think he really realizes it," White said. "You can't be on the Yankees and not know how much that means to have your number up there."
Mike Gallego was the last Yankee before Jeter to wear the number. "It's definitely an honor to be included in the same sentence as Derek Jeter," he said through a spokesman with the A's, for whom he is the third-base coach. "He's been an ambassador of the game for many years, as we all know. It's also a privilege to be part of a trivia question."