John Smoltz’s jersey retirement

sports@macon.comJune 5, 2012 

When the Atlanta Braves officially retire John Smoltz’s No. 29 jersey Friday night, he becomes just the ninth player or manager in franchise history to be so honored.

He joins a group that includes Dale Murphy (No. 3), Bobby Cox (No. 6), Warren Spahn (No. 21), Greg Maddux (No. 31), Phil Niekro (No. 35), Eddie Matthews (No. 41), Hank Aaron (No. 44) and Tom Glavine (No. 47).

Smoltz is just the second player in Major League Baseball history who wore No. 29 to have that jersey number retired. The other is Rod Carew, who was honored by both the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins. Carew is one of just seven major leaguers to have his jersey retired by more than one team. The major league record holder is pitcher Nolan Ryan, who had two different numbers retired by three different teams. His No. 30 worn while he was with Angels was retired in 1992 and his No. 34 worn playing with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers was retired by both teams in 1996.

Other players honored by two different teams are Reggie Jackson No. 9 by the Oakland A’s and No. 44 by the New York Yankees, Frank Robinson No. 20 by the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, Carlton Fisk No. 27 by the Boston Red Sox and No. 72 by the Chicago White Sox, Maddux No. 31 by the Braves and Chicago Cubs, Rollie Fingers No. 34 by the A’s and Milwaukee Brewers, manager Casey Stengel No. 37 by the Yankees and New York Mets and Hank Aaron No. 44 by both the Braves and Brewers.

The first major league player to have his jersey number retired was Lou Gehrig. That came about July 4, 1939 after he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which became more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games before the illness sidelined him after he played his final game April 30, 1939. Since Gehrig. 177 more numbers have been retired, with Smoltz becoming No. 179.

Numbers 5 and 20 are the most common to be immortalized, with each being set aside nine times.

The Florida Marlins retired No. 5 for Carl Barger. Don’t remember him? He was the expansion team’s first president but died four month’s before their first game. Since his favorite player was Joe DiMaggio, they awarded that number to him, When the Marlins became the Miami Marlins and moved into their new park this season, the No. 5 was placed back into circulation and given to Logan Morrison.

Some of the players who were No. 20 were the St. Louis Cardinals’ Lou Brock, Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Sutton.

The Yankees have paid homage to 16 players, which is by far the most by any team. Their only remaining single digits are Nos. 2 and 6, and you can be assured No. 2 will be retired for shortstop Derek Jeter. I also would expect Alex Rodriquez to be the final Yankees player to wear No. 13.

Following Smoltz the next Braves number to be hung on the stadium façade will be Chipper Jones’ No. 10, which will come some time after this season, which is his final one, since he announced his retirement back in March.

All major league teams retired No. 42 in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier back in 1947. The Cardinals officially retired that number for Bruce Sutter in 2006.

In my opinion, the greatest honor bestowed on any athlete, in any sport, is to have his jersey number retired.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com.

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