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.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.