Professor Farnsworth: Why is your number 7/8?
Leela: All the whole numbers have been retired.
-- "Futurama," "A Leela of Her Own"

On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees became the first professional athlete to have his uniform number retired by the team he played for. At the time, uniform numbers themselves were a fairly recent invention, dating back only about 10 years, to when those very same Yankees assigned each position player a number corresponding to their usual place in the batting order and put those numbers on the back of each player's uniform shirt. Gehrig was usually the cleanup hitter, and so wore number 4.

Since then, many teams in both professional and college sports have given the same honor to other players, in effect saying that the player was not just good, not just memorable, but so special that no future player on the team should ever wear the same number again. A few teams have retired numbers of managers, or retired honorary numbers to represent team owners, or even the fans. In most ballparks and stadiums, retired numbers are on permanent display somewhere visible from the field of play and the stands, often in the form of placards on a wall or banners hanging in the rafters.

In most cases, movement of a franchise has not caused numbers to become unretired. Notable exceptions are the Colorado Avalanche and the Carolina Hurricanes, formerly the Quebec Nordiques and the Hartford Whalers, respectively.

Of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, most retired numbers have been the product of the league with the most history, tradition, and obsession with numbers, Major League Baseball. The fewest have been from the NFL, which actively discourages its teams from the practice because of the large size of team rosters and the regimented way in which numbers are assigned to certain positions. (In fact, NFL teams have sometimes, out of necessity, assigned retired numbers to players during the preseason.)

This is the list of numbers formally retired by teams in those two leagues, as well as teams belonging to the NBA and NHL, including each person's position(s) and the years he was associated with each team. Under each number, players are listed in alphabetical order by name.

00

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

  • Boston Celtics: Dave Cowens, center, 1970-1980
  • Cleveland Indians: Mel Harder, pitcher, 1928-1947; coach, 1948-1964
  • Cincinnati Reds: Ted Kluszewski, first baseman, 1947-1957
  • Boston Celtics: Dave Loscutoff, forward, 1955-1964; asked that his number not be retired, so his banner reads "Locsy"
  • Chicago Blackhawks: Denis Savard, forward, 1980-1990 and 1995-1997
  • Los Angeles Kings: Dave Taylor, forward, 1977-1994
  • Denver Broncos: Frank Tripucka, quarterback, 1960-1963

19

20

21

22

23

24

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Walter Alston, manager, 1954-1976
  • Golden State Warriors: Rick Barry, forward, 1965-1967 and 1972-1978
  • New York Knicks: Bill Bradley, forward, 1967-1977
  • Phoenix Suns: Tom Chambers, forward, 1988-1993
  • St. Louis Blues: Bernie Federko, forward, 1976-1989
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Bobby Jones, forward, 1979-1986
  • Boston Celtics: Sam Jones, guard, 1957-1969
  • Houston Rockets: Moses Malone, center, 1976-1982 (also see 2)
  • San Francisco Giants: Willie Mays, outfielder, 1951-1972
  • Indianapolis Colts: Lenny Moore, flanker/running back, Baltimore Colts, 1956-1967
  • Cincinnati Reds: Tony Perez, first baseman, 1964-1976 and 1984-1986
  • Boston Bruins: Terry O'Reilly, right wing, 1971-1985; coach, 1986-1989

25

26

27

28

29

  • Minnesota Twins and Anaheim Angels: Rod Carew, second baseman, Minnesota, 1967-1978; California Angels, 1979-1985
  • St. Louis Rams: Eric Dickerson, running back, Los Angeles Rams, 1983-1987

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

  • San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Johnson, cornerback, 1961-1976
  • New York Yankees and New York Mets: Casey Stengel, manager, Yankees, 1949-1960; Mets, 1962-1965
  • Detroit Lions: Doak Walker, halfback, 1950-1955

39

40

  • Denver Nuggets: Byron Beck, center/forward, 1967-1977
  • Philadelphia Eagles: Tom Brookshier, cornerback, 1953 and 1956-1961
  • New England Patriots: Mike Haynes, cornerback, 1976-1982
  • Detroit Pistons: Bill Laimbeer, guard, 1982-1994
  • New York Giants: Joe Morrison, wide receiver/halfback, 1959-1972
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: Danny Murtaugh, second baseman, 1948-1951; manager, 1957-1964, 1967, 1970-1971, and 1973-1976
  • Chicago Bears: Gale Sayers, halfback, 1965-1971
  • Houston Astros: Don Wilson, pitcher, 1966-1974

41

  • Atlanta Braves: Eddie Mathews, third baseman, 1952-1966
  • Chicago Bears: Brian Piccolo, running back, 1965-1969
  • New York Mets: Tom Seaver, pitcher, 1967-1977 and 1983
  • Washington Wizards: Wes Unseld, center, Baltimore Bullets/Washington Bullets, 1968-1981; coach, 1988-1994

42

  • New York Giants: Charlie Conerly, quarterback, 1948-1961
  • Phoenix Suns: Connie Hawkins, forward, 1970-1974
  • Chicago Bears: Sid Luckman, quarterback, 1939-1950
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Jackie Robinson, second baseman, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947-1956; in 1997, Major League Baseball retired Robinson's number 42 for future players on all teams
  • Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers: Nate Thurmond, center, Warriors, 1963-1974; Cavaliers, 1976-1977
  • Los Angeles Lakers: James Worthy, forward, 1982-1994

43

44

  • Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers: Hank Aaron, outfielder, Braves, 1954-1974; Brewers, 1975-1976
  • San Antonio Spurs: George Gervin, forward/guard, 1974-1985
  • Denver Nuggets: Dan Issel, forward, 1965-1975; coach, 1992-1995 and 1999-2001
  • Denver Broncos: Floyd Little, running back, 1967-1975
  • San Francisco Giants: Willie McCovey, first baseman, 1959-1973 and 1977-1980
  • New York Yankees: Reggie Jackson, outfielder, 1977-1981
  • Sacramento Kings: Sam Lacey, center, Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City Kings, 1970-1982
  • Philadelphia Eagles: Pete Retzlaff, tight end, 1956-1966
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Jerry West, guard, 1960-1974; coach, 1976-1979
  • Phoenix Suns: Paul Westphal, guard, 1975-1980 and 1983-1984

45

46

  • Cleveland Browns: Don Fleming, defensive back, 1960-1962

49

  • Houston Astros: Larry Dierker, pitcher, 1964-1976; manager, 1997-2001

50

  • Anaheim Angels: Jimmie Reese, coach, California Angels, 1972-1994
  • New York Giants: Ken Strong, halfback, 1933-1935 and 1939; placekicker, 1944-1947

51

  • Chicago Bears: Dick Butkus, middle linebacker, 1965-1973

52

53

54

56

57

60

61

  • Chicago Bears: Bill George, guard/middle linebacker, 1952-1965

63

65

  • Tennessee Titans: Elvin Bethea, defensive end, Houston Oilers, 1968-1983

66

  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux, forward, 1984-1997 and 2000-present; number became temporarily unretired when Lemieux came out of retirement
  • Green Bay Packers: Ray Nitschke, middle linebacker, 1958-1972
  • Chicago Bears: Clyde Turner, center/linebacker, 1940-1952

70

72

  • Chicago White Sox: Carlton Fisk, catcher, 1981-1993 (also see 27)

73

74

  • St. Louis Rams: Merlin Olsen, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams, 1962-1976

76

  • Cleveland Browns: Lou Groza, offensive tackle/placekicker, 1946-1959 and 1961-1967

77

  • Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche: Ray Bourque, defenseman, Bruins, 1978-2000; Avalanche, 2000-2001
  • Chicago Bears: Red Grange, halfback, 1925 and 1929-1934
  • Arizona Cardinals: Stan Mauldin, offensive tackle, Chicago Cardinals, 1946-1948
  • Indianapolis Colts: Jim Parker, guard/offensive tackle, Baltimore Colts, 1957-1967
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Jack Ramsay, coach, 1976-1986; number represents the Blazers' 1977 NBA championship
  • Minnesota Vikings: Korey Stringer, offensive tackle, 1999-2000

78

  • Kansas City Chiefs: Bobby Bell, linebacker/defensive end, 1963-1974
  • St. Louis Rams: Jackie Slater, offensive tackle, 1976-1995

79

  • New England Patriots: Jim Hunt, defensive tackle, 1960-1971
  • San Francisco 49ers: Bob St. Clair, offensive tackle, 1953-1963

80

81

  • New Orleans Saints: Doug Atkins, defensive end, 1967-1969

82

85

  • St. Louis Cardinals: Gussie Busch, owner, 1953-1989; number, retired in 1984, honors his 85th birthday
  • Detroit Lions: Chuck Hughes, wide receiver, 1970-1971
  • St. Louis Rams: Jack Youngblood, defensive end, Los Angeles Rams, 1971-1984

86

87

  • San Francisco 49ers: Dwight Clark, wide receiver, 1979-1987

88

  • Arizona Cardinals: J.V. Cain, tight end, St. Louis Cardinals, 1974-1978
  • Minnesota Vikings: Alan Page, defensive tackle, 1967-1978
  • Detroit Lions: Charlie Sanders, tight end, 1968-1977

89

99

  • Philadelphia Eagles: Jerome Brown, defensive tackle, 1987-1991
  • Arizona Cardinals: Marshall Goldberg, halfback, Chicago Cardinals, 1939-1943 and 1946-1948
  • Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings: Wayne Gretzky, center, Oilers, 1978-1988; Kings, 1988-1996; in 2000, the NHL retired Gretzky's number 99 for future players on all teams

455

  • Cleveland Indians: Honorary number representing fans, the number of consecutive sellouts at Jacobs Field from its opening in 1994

529

  • Indiana Pacers: Bob Leonard, coach, 1968-1976; number is the number of games he won as coach

613

  • New York Knicks: Red Holzman, assistant coach, 1957-1967; head coach, 1967-1982; number is the number of games he won as head coach

No number

  • "Retired" microphones
  • People who predate uniform numbers, but have been given the equivalent of a retired number ceremony

Team in each league with the most retired numbers:

  • New York Yankees (14)
  • Chicago Bears (13)
  • Boston Celtics (20)
  • Boston Bruins (8)

Teams with no retired numbers:


The idea to do a list of retired numbers in numerical order, as opposed to by team, came from a list printed in USA Today about 10 years ago, which I can't find my copy of.

Sources:

  • Current list of retired numbers and players from factmonster.com
  • Various teams web sites at mlb.com, nfl.com, nba.com, and nhl.com
  • Web sites for the halls of fame for baseball, football, basketball, and hockey
  • baseballlibrary.com, hockeydb.com, and hockeysandwich.com
  • Other web sites too numerous to name
  • Various writeups right here on Everything2

Any corrections or additions, please /msg me.

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