Welcome to Inside the Numbers. Or, this week, Inside the Retired Numbers.
With the Mets retiring Hall of Famer Mike Piazza’s No. 31 on Saturday, it’s only natural to wonder who’s next.
Doc? Darryl? Keith? The Kid? Timo Perez?
One thing is certain: People seem to care a great deal about uniform numbers and which ones get retired. The Mets recently moved their retired number displays from behind the leftfield fence to a more prominent spot above the upper deck in the leftfield corner.
“The combination of our increased attendance coupled with the retirement of Mike Piazza’s number brought to light the need to enhance the visibility for all of our retired numbers, which were frequently obstructed in their previous location,” the team said in a statement.
Piazza’s 31 is only the second number to be retired for a Met who made his mark with the team as a player and the fifth digit overall. He joins Tom Seaver (41), Gil Hodges (14), Casey Stengel (37) and Jackie Robinson, whose 42 is retired on every major-league team.
Stengel was the team’s first manager. Hodges, the manager of the 1969 World Series champion Mets, played in 65 games for the team in 1962-63.
The Mets have a shorter history and far fewer retired numbers than the Yankees, who have retired 20 for 22 people from Billy Martin’s 1 to Bernie Williams’ 51. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey share No. 8, and Mariano Rivera shares 42 with Robinson.
Next up for the Yankees isn’t hard to guess. (In Bob Sheppard’s voice): No. 2, Derek Jeter, No. 2.
It’s a tougher call for the Mets, and one they might not make at all in the coming years. The stars of the 1986 team — Gary Carter (8), Dwight Gooden (16), Keith Hernandez (17) and Darryl Strawberry (18) — all are deserving. But they have been so for many years and haven’t yet received the honor.
So that could push “next up” all the way to David Wright’s No. 5 after the captain calls it a career.
No Met has worn 31 since Piazza left after the 2005 season. Twelve players have worn Gooden’s 16, including Alejandro De Aza this season. Strawberry’s 18 has been assigned 15 times, including earlier this month to Travis d’Arnaud after the catcher gave his No. 7 back to Jose Reyes, who at one point in his first Mets career appeared to be a retired-number-type player.
Three Mets have worn Carter’s 8 after he left in 1989, but none since Desi Relaford in 2008. The Mets also have stopped using Hernandez’s 17 since Fernando Tatis sported it from 2008-10. But Tatis was the 14th post-Hernandez player to wear it, a fact that might make Keith a little grumpy if you ask him about it.
David Cone was one of the 14, from 1991-92. Cone also wore 44 and 16 as a Met, which would make retiring his uniform number difficult or at least more costly. Maybe the Yankees will do it? Cone wore only No. 36 when employed as a pitcher in the Bronx.
The first baseball player to have his number retired was Lou Gehrig, whose No. 4 was honored by the Yankees in 1939 after his shocking retirement because of the disease that now carries his name.
Carter’s No. 8 was retired by the Montreal Expos in 1993, but when the franchise moved to Washington in 2004, the Nationals chose not to bring the Expos’ history across the border.
In 2005, the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens put up a commemorative banner at the Bell Centre honoring the four players who had their numbers retired by the Expos (Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Rusty Staub).
Speaking of the NHL, Wayne Gretzky’s 99 was retired league-wide in 2000. The Rangers have retired seven numbers (Andy Bathgate and Adam Graves share No. 9), the Islanders six. The Canadiens have retired the most, 15 numbers for 18 players.
In the NFL, the Giants have retired 11 numbers and the Jets three. The Chicago Bears have the most with 13. The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders have never retired a number.
In the NBA, the Knicks have retired seven (Earl Monroe and Dick McGuire share 15) and the Nets six. The Boston Celtics have retired an NBA-high 21 numbers.