Tale of the Tape: Toronto Blue Jays Retired Numbers
Retiring a number is a long honored tradition not only in baseball, but in the other major sports as well. The first incidence of it happening on record is in 1934, when the Toronto Maple Leafs retired Ace Bailey's number 6. In soccer, some clubs have retired the number 12, honoring their fans as the 'twelfth man'. Basketball has a similar tradition, with some teams retiring the number 6, referring to their respective fans.
Once the number has been retired, players from the franchise cannot play as that number, and if a player is playing with a number of a legend that does get retired, it's common courtesy for that player to surrender that number to the legend and play as a different number. We've seen this with Ray Bourque's change from number 7 to number 77 once Phil Esposito's number 7 was retired.
But back to baseball, more specifically the Toronto Blue Jays. While some teams have extensive lists of retired numbers, like the New York Yankees with 22, some teams only have a few. The Blue Jays have only officially retired two numbers. So who are these Blue Jay legends?
#42 - Jackie Robinson
Well, the Blue Jays themselves didn't officially retire Jackie Robinson's number. It was a league wide decision to retire his #42 from every team. This occurred in 1997, and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was the only player left that was allowed to wear the hallowed digits. On April 15, 2004, the league began Jackie Robinson Day, in which every player in the MLB dons the number 42 in honor of the pioneer player.
The date of April 15th is significant, because it's the day Jackie Robinson, the first player of color, played in the MLB, starting for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947. Players of color were meant to play in the Negro Leagues because of the segregation at the time. He won the Rookie of the Year Award that year and later went on to have a stunning baseball career, becoming the NL MVP in 1949 between his six straight years as an All-Star, not to mention his World Series win against the Yankees in 1955. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Off the field, Robinson was breaking barriers as well. He became the first black TV analyst in the league and embarked on lucrative business ventures. After his death, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
#12 - Roberto Alomar
Roberto Alomar's number 12 was retired in 2011. He was the first Blue Jay to be honored in this fashion and is still the only one. Alomar's number was retired soon after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay, also a first for the franchise.
During his career, Alomar played for numerous teams, but the plurality of his time was with the Blue Jays where he stayed from 1991-95, where he was the Blue Jays Player of the Year in 1991, 1992, and 1995. Playing as 2B, his best season for the team was in 1993, where he batted .326 (good for 3rd in the league) with 17 home runs, 93 RBIs, and 55 stolen bases. Alomar was instrumental in both the 1992 and 1993 World Series (which the Blue Jays both won), and was raised to the Level of Excellence in 2008.
In his overall career, Alomar was a 12-time All Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner. His career batting average of .307 is still a franchise record.
Who's To Follow?
If you haven't yet guessed by the image above, the Blue Jays have announced that they will retire Roy Halladay's number 32. The date is set for March 29, 2018. The former Blue Jay spent the 1998-2009 seasons with the Jays before ending his career with the Phillies from 2010-13. At age 40, Halladay tragically died in an amphibious plane crash near Florida.
His career had ups and downs, but he never quit and after a shaky start, Halladay became one of the best pitchers in the game. In 2002, the righty ended the season with a 19-7 record with a 2.93 ERA. In 2003, his record was even better, at 22-7 and an ERA of 3.25 in 266 IP. His 204 Ks to only 32 B gave him a stunning 6.38 K/BB ratio. In 2009, Halladay went on a 24 inning scoreless run, the second best run of all time.
With the Philadelphia Phillies included, his career record is 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA and dishing out 2117 strikeouts. He was an eight time All Star and two time Cy Young Award winner. With the Phillies, he pitched a perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Marlins in Florida.
Halladay's career was cut short due to injury, but the hurler still made an impact on and off the field. From giving underprivileged children opportunities to watch baseball games at Rogers Centre to his numerous donations, it's no surprise Doc was a frequent nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award and no surprise the Blue Jays will be honoring a player who, despite his early shortcomings, managed to rise up to be one of the league's top pitchers.
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