A Simple Request

Major League Baseball did the legitimately honorable thing in 1997 in having every team retire Jackie Robinson’s #42.  Robinson changed the face of baseball against enormous odds and astounding hate.  He deserves to be honored for his contributions to the sport as a whole.  However, a number of other players faced similar, though distinct, difficulties in integrating the specific teams that made up the rest of the league.  They deserve immortalization as well.  Though I would not ask that MLB as a whole retire these numbers, because of the truly unique contribution of Jackie Robinson, it seems more than appropriate for each individual teams to retire these players numbers in order to remember the horrors of segregation in the major league and the path-breaking bravery of these players who overcame it.  The list of players is drawn from here, the retired numbers come from this list, and the uniform numbers are taken from the Baseball Almanac.

Player Team Date Number Retired
Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers 4/15/1947 42 Yes
Larry Doby Cleveland Indians 7/5/1947 14 Yes
Hank Thompson St. Louis Browns 7/17/1947 7 No
Monte Irvin New York Giants 7/8/1949 20 No
Hank Thompson New York Giants 7/8/1949 16 No
Sam Jethroe Boston Braves 4/18/1950 5 No
Minnie Minoso Chicago White Sox 5/1/1951 9 Yes
Bob Trice Philadelphia Athletics 9/13/1953 23 No
Ernie Banks Chicago Cubs 9/17/1953 14 Yes
Curt Roberts Pittsburgh Pirates 4/13/1954 7 No
Tom Alston St. Louis Cardinals 4/13/1954 10 No
Nino Escalera Cincinnati Reds 4/17/1954 21 No
Chuck Harmon Cincinnati Reds 4/17/1954 10 No
Carlos Paula Washington Senators 9/6/1954 23 No
Elston Howard New York Yankees 4/14/1955 32 Yes
John Kennedy Philadelphia Phillies 4/22/1957 8 No
Ozzie Virgil, Sr. Detroit Tigers 6/6/1958 22 No
Pumpsie Green Boston Red Sox 7/21/1959 12 No

The St. Louis Browns are now the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators are Minnesota Twins, and the Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and A’s have moved to thier current cities.

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3 Comments on “A Simple Request”

  1. verdun2 Says:

    I sort of agree with you, but let me point out that most of the guys whose numbers haven’t been retired were marginal player. For instance Alston at St. Louis played in 91 games and hit .244 without power, hardly Jackie Robinson numbers.
    Having said that I have no idea why the Giants have slighted Monte Irvin or the Braves have ignored Sam Jethroe. (Come on, guys, retire these 2 numbers.)
    Of course in a couple of cases, the Giants being one, you’d have to retire 2 numbers (Hank Thompson being the other). Speaking of Thompson do you retire him twice (see the Browns/Orioles)?
    And now a dig at the Phllies, Tigers, and Red Sox. What took you so long, fellas? YUCK!
    v

  2. sportsphd Says:

    First, Irvin is the most egregious. He is a Hall of Famer, and not just because of his Negro League play. Jethroe is at least the equal of a number of players whose numbers have been retired.

    As to the rest, they are a step down in terms of their major league play from the players whose numbers have been retired. In some ways, I think of them more like the Angels retiring #26 for Gene Autry. These players contributed incalcuably to the shape of the game of baseball. Retiring numbers seems like a way to remind the world of that simple fact.

    Finally, Hank Thompson. He would make a fascinating movie. Integrated two teams, part of those dominant Monarchs teams in the 1940’s, machine gunner in the Battle of the Bulge. Interesting story.

  3. Jim Cole Says:

    what about Carlos Bernier?


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