The Yankees have retired 20 numbers, and while I have no problem with most of them, some should not be retired. I have no qualms in having Jeter(2), Ruth(3), Gehrig(4), DiMaggio(5), Mantle(5), and Berra/Dickey(8), Rizzuto(10) Munson(15)Ford(16), Mattingly(23), Howard(32)and Rivera(42).
But the other numbers should be entrusted as an honor; a trust that the player will carry on the tradition of who wore it before him, and who will continue the Yankee tradition. Here are those numbers and the players for whom it was retired.
1---Billy Martin. No one loved the Yanks more than he did. It is said his heart was broken when he was traded to the Kansas City. While his regular season statistics were nothing to write home about his World Series appearances were great. He hit .333 in five series, and his catch of a wind blown pop up by Jackie Robinson with the bases loaded was key in the Yanks winning the '52 World Series. But, today he is more remembered for his run-ins with George Steinbrenner(who treated him miserably) and Reggie Jackson. Bobby Richardson who also played second base for over ten years also wore #1, and his demeanor and personality was the opposite of Billy's. Richardson was also the MVP in the 1960 World Series. It would be great to see #1 given to a top notch infielder.
6---Joe Torre. As a rule I am not in favor having numbers for managers retired. They play with the hand dealt to them by the General Manager. But the Yanks did retire Stengel's 37, in response perhaps to the Mets doing the same five years earlier in 1970, so there is precedent. Joe, like Casey, had the great fortune to be a caretaker for a great teams, and like a doctor the first thing is do no harm, and neither of them did. Casey came in first place 10 out of 12 times as did Joe. But their pre-and post Yankee managerial were a little less than mediocre.
9----Roger Maris. This is tough. If the reason for his retired number is recompense for the crap he had to go through while breaking Ruth's single season home run record, then there's a point to be made. I'm fine with that. But his career with the Yanks was a short one. There were others before him, notably, Charlie Keller, Hank Bauer and Craig Nettles who wore 9. They were all steady, dependable ball-players. In my opinion this number is the prime example of what a semi-retired number should be.
20---Jorge Posada. A very good catcher. He put some solid numbers and was a key component along with Williams, Jeter, O'Neill throughout the dynasty teams. Does he match up with Berra or with Dickey or Munson? Dickey and Berra had better offensive numbers, and Dickey and Munson were superior defensive players. In addition Munson was a team leader. The heart and soul of the club.
46---Andy Pettitte. I am still scratching my head over this selection. He pales in comparison to Lefty Gomez, who was 6-0 in World Series and Red Ruffing who won 20+ games four years in a row. I liked Andy a lot. He was a workhorse who came to each game with his lunchbucket and a true blue collar attitude. He came up big in some big games. But still.
51---Bernie Williams. He put up good numbers. He was a decent fielder who worked hard to become a good ballplayer. He was an important cog of the Yankee dynasty, but so were, Posada, O'Neill, and Martinez.
44---Reggie Jackson. He had a candy bar, a near fight with his manager, caused dissenion on the team without even playing a game, got under the owner's skin, but he's got a nickname for the ages(Mr. October) and three fantastic World Series appearances with Yanks, but he also had only five years with the Yanks, and for me that's not long enough to get his number retired. One of George's big mistakes was in not keeping him on the team. He should have remained a Yankee, while I would not retire his number it will be a long time before anyone wears it again.