11 Jersey Numbers Retired for Unconventional Reasons

Retiring a player’s jersey number is most often reserved for all-time greats. Other times, it’s a tribute to a player whose career is cut short by illness or death. And sometimes, as in the case of Lou Gehrig — the first professional player to have his number retired — it’s both. Here are 11 numbers that have been retired for a variety of different reasons.

1. #455 – Cleveland Indians

One of the only triple-digit numbers to be retired, the Indians honored their fans with a ceremony on April 22, 2001. From June 12, 1995, to April 2, 2001, the Indians sold out a record 455 consecutive games at Jacobs Field. The Colorado Rockies owned the previous record for most consecutive sellouts with 203. "I believe it's safe to say that this amazing feat of consecutive sellouts will never be matched," Indians owner Larry Dolan said after the streak was snapped in the second game of the 2001 season. "I hope our fans take great pride in setting the standard in major league baseball." Dolan was wrong. This past season, the Boston Red Sox watched their sellout streak at Fenway Park surpass 700 games.

2. #23 – Miami Heat

Despite the fact that he never played for them, the Heat retired Michael Jordan’s No. 23 before his final game in Miami in 2003.

“In honor of your greatness and for all you’ve done for the game of basketball – and not just the NBA, but for all the fans around the world – we want to honor you tonight and hang your jersey, No. 23, from the rafters,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You’re the best.”

Jordan averaged 30.1 points in 38 career games against the Miami. LeBron James, who previously wore No. 23, announced his plans to switch to No. 6 out of respect for Jordan during what would turn out to be his final year in Cleveland.

3. #5 – Cincinnati Reds

When the Reds honored Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in 1984, it marked the second time the franchise had retired No. 5. The first time came under much sadder circumstances.

Late in the 1940 season, Cincinnati backup catcher Willard Hershberger, who was forced into action following an injury to Ernie Lombardi, committed suicide. Hershberger, whose father had committed suicide when Willard was 18, blamed himself after the Reds were swept in a double-header, and reportedly expressed his suicidal thoughts to manager Bill McKechnie. The Reds dedicated the rest of the season to the man they called Hershie and defeated the Tigers in the World Series. Hershberger’s No. 5 was temporarily retired, but reactivated in 1942. Bench, a 14-time All-Star, wore it proudly from 1967-1983.

4. #12 – Seattle Seahawks

Quarterback Sam Adkins, a 10th round draft pick out of Wichita State, appeared in 11 games for the Seahawks from 1977-1981. He completed 17-of-39 passes for two touchdowns and four interceptions, and the number he wore is retired along with former teammate Steve Largent’s No. 80 and left tackle Walter Jones’s 71. What gives? In 1984, the team retired No. 12 in honor of its fans (not Adkins) in a ceremony at the Kingdome. The Seahawks have taken great pride in the home-field advantage provided by their 12th Man.

The Seahawks and Texas A&M, which began using the 12th Man slogan in 1922 and trademarked it in 1990, settled a dispute over the use of the slogan in 2006. If the Seahawks use the 12th Man moniker in radio or TV broadcasts, they must mention that the slogan is copyright of Texas A&M.

5. #7 – Washington Capitals

Yvon Labre scored 14 goals in nine NHL seasons, but his No. 7 hangs from the rafters at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Labre joined the Capitals in their first season, scored the team’s first goal at home, and was captain from 1976-78. Fans and teammates respected Labre’s constant hustle, even as the Capitals struggled through some ugly seasons. He was an assistant coach and color commentator for the team after his retirement and later served as the Capitals’ director of community relations. Labre’s number was retired on Nov. 7, 1981.

6. #1 - Pittsburgh Pirates

Bill Meyer compiled a record of 317-452 during his stint as Pittsburgh manager from 1948-52, and in his final year, the Pirates lost a franchise-worst 112 games. Why then, in 1954, was Meyer the second Pittsburgh player or manager to have his number retired (after the legendary Honus Wagner)?

Meyer’s declining health was well documented and he was a popular figure with the Pittsburgh media and fans. As Baseball Digest’s editors explained in 1990, “He was well liked even though his teams finished 4th, 6th, 8th, 7th, and 8th during his managerial tenure…Meyer’s record as a minor league manager – a highly successful one – also figured in the decision.” Meyer suffered a stroke in 1955 and died in 1957 at the age of 64.

7. #42 – MLB

Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across the entire league on April 15, 1997, 50 years after Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players who were wearing the number at the time were allowed to keep it. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only active player who wears No. 42.

8. #9 – Real Salt Lake

When Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey announced his decision to retire Jason Kreis’s No. 9 earlier this year, controversy erupted. Even Kreis, who scored only 17 of his 108 career goals as an MLS player with Real Salt Lake before taking over as coach, questioned whether he deserved the honor. Internationally, retiring jerseys is rare in soccer, and typically reserved for players who have died. “We live in America,” Lagerwey said at the start of an epic rant defending the decision. “We play in an American soccer league. We have playoffs, we don’t have relegation, we retire numbers.”

9. #7 – New Orleans Hornets

When the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, the team retired Pete Maravich’s No. 7. The Utah Jazz, for whom Maravich played the majority of his career, had previously retired Pistol Pete’s number. All but one of Maravich’s years with the Jazz came before the team moved from New Orleans to Salt Lake City. That, coupled with Maravich’s tremendous college career at LSU, was the Hornets’ reasoning for retiring his number. The team’s only other retired number is 13, which belonged to Bobby Phills. The Baton Rouge native died in a car crash in 2000.

10. #99 – NHL

After Wayne Gretzky played his final game on April 18, 1999, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that his iconic No. 99 would be retired across the league. “You have always been and always will be ‘The Great One,’” Bettman said. “There will never be another.”

11. #40 – Arizona Cardinals

Pat Tillman starred as a linebacker at Arizona State and was selected in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He converted to safety and, in 2000, set a new team record for tackles. Following the 2001 season, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer to enlist in the Army with his brother, Kevin. Tillman became the first NFL player to die in combat since the Vietnam War when he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004. The Cardinals retired Tillman’s No. 40 in a ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium later that year.

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

6 Surprising Ways Baseball Actually Favors Lefties

Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you grew up playing baseball, tee-ball, softball, or any other derivative of America’s favorite pastime, you might be familiar with certain positions left-handed people are unofficially prohibited from playing—you’ll hardly ever see a left-handed shortstop or third baseman, for example, because they’d be facing the wrong direction for any throws to the right side of the field. However, there are plenty of other parts of the game that are equally important as efficiently making outs at first or second base, and some of them can even favor lefties. Read on to find out how left-handed batters, pitchers, and more have an edge against their right-handed competitors below.

1. Left-handed pitchers have a better view of first base.

Since a left-handed pitcher faces first base when he’s gearing up to pitch, he can easily see if a first base runner is leading off (i.e. taking a few steps off the bag, with the intention to steal second base). This makes for some pretty spectacular fake-outs where a pitcher will feign throwing a pitch and instead flip it to the first baseman, who can tag the runner out before he can get a foot (or finger) back on the bag.

2. Left-handed batters are closer to first base.

Left-handed batters are simply standing a little closer to first base than right-handed batters. As former MLB player Doug Bernier explained for Pro Baseball Insider, an extra step or so can be the difference between getting thrown out at first base or making it safely there, especially if it’s an infield hit. That said, not everyone agrees the slightly shorter distance to first base is enough to give left-handed batters an advantage on infield hits in general. In a 2007 article for The Hardball Times, John Walsh argued that since lefties hit more ground balls into the right half of the infield—giving first and second basemen a shorter distance to cover to make the out at first—their one-step head start isn’t statistically significant overall.

3. Left-handed batters’ momentum is already carrying them in the direction of first base.

Even if a shorter distance to first base isn’t enough to give a left-handed batter the edge on every occasion, he also has the laws of physics on his side. When a lefty swings, the momentum of the bat is moving to the right—i.e. toward first base—so he gets to run in the same direction he’s already moving. Righties, on the other hand, swing toward third base and have to break the momentum to sprint in the opposite direction. Dr. David A. Peters, a professor of engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (and baseball aficionado), calculated that lefties’ momentum means they’re able to travel to first base about one-sixth of a second faster than righties.

4. Left-handed first basemen are facing the right direction to throw the ball to another infielder.

If the ball is hit to a left-handed first baseman, he’s already in the ideal position—with his right foot closest to his target—to throw it just about anywhere else in the infield. This is especially helpful when there’s an opportunity to make an out at second or third base, which he’d usually prioritize over the first base out. A right-handed first baseman, on the other hand, might have to pivot as much as 180 degrees to get his left foot where it needs to be to throw it to another infielder.

5. Left-handed batters perform better against right-handed pitchers, which are more abundant.

In baseball, it’s generally agreed that batters fare better when hitting against opposite-handed (OH) pitchers, so much so that coaches sometimes stack their batting lineups with lefties when they know a righty will be pitching, and vice versa. “With the dominance of right-handed pitchers in the game,” Dan Peterson writes for gameSense Sports, “the left-handed hitter comes to the plate with a built-in advantage.” The advantage itself has to do with the direction of the pitches.

“With a right-handed release to a right-handed batter, the ball seems to be coming right at him,” Peterson explains. “The same pitch coming from the opposite side provides a better view across the body.”

6. Right field is shorter than left field in some parks.

detroit tigers comerica park aerial view
An aerial view of the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When professional baseball stadiums first started cropping up in the late 19th century, there wasn’t a league-wide set of dimensions to standardize their size and shape (in fact, for the most part, there still isn’t). Since the majority of batters were right-handed—and, as such, more likely to hit the ball into left field—some stadiums featured left fields that were significantly deeper than their right fields. Take Philadelphia’s Columbia Park II, which opened in 1901 with a 340-foot left field and a 280-foot right field. Those short right fields meant left-handed batters would have an easier time hitting home runs. While most modern stadiums have quite literally evened the playing field with more symmetrical dimensions, some of them still have discrepancies; the right field foul pole at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park, for example, is a whole 15 feet closer to home plate than its left field foul pole.

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