Retiring the number of an athlete is an honor a team bestows upon a player, usually after the player has left the team or retires from the sport. Once a number is retired, no future player from the team may wear that number on their uniform, unless the player so-honored permits it. Such an honor may also be bestowed on players who had highly memorable careers, died prematurely under tragic circumstances, or have had their promising careers ended by serious injury. Some sports that retire team numbers include baseball, ice hockey, basketball, American football and association football. Retired jerseys are often referred to as "hanging from the rafters" as they are, literally, put to hang in the team's home arena.
Details and examples
If a jersey is retired and an active player is still wearing it, the player is usually permitted to wear the number for his entire career as a player. If in the sport, managers and coaches wear uniform numbers, and the player later becomes a coach for the same team, he is also permitted to wear it as a coach. However, in some cases the player may elect to change their number. For instance, in 1987 the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League decided to retire jersey number 7 in honor of Phil Esposito, who had become a star while playing for the team. At the time of the decision, team captain Ray Bourque was wearing the number, and instead of keeping it elected to switch. The switch was revealed during the ceremony honoring Esposito when Bourque skated up to him and pulled his #7 jersey off to reveal his new jersey number, 77, and "surrender" the 7 to Esposito. Bourque's new jersey number would eventually join Esposito's in the rafters of TD Garden, as the Bruins retired his #77 following his 2001 retirement.
In rare cases, a number may be retired because of the player's endeavors in other fields. For example, former college football star Gerald Ford's number 48 was retired by the University of Michigan football squad by virtue of his future career as the 38th President of the United States.
Teams also take numbers out of circulation without formally retiring them. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not reissued the jersey numbers of several of their greatest players—most notably Terry Bradshaw's #12, Franco Harris' #32, and Joe Greene's #75. Although the Steelers have only formally retired one number in their history—Ernie Stautner's number 70—it is generally understood that no Steeler will ever wear 12, 32 or 75 again. Similarly, with the exception of a pair of quarterbacks in the mid-1980s, the Green Bay Packers have not re-issued Paul Hornung's number 5 since his departure from the team following the 1966 season. The Dallas Cowboys do not officially retire numbers, but it is generally understood that Roger Staubach's #12, Bob Lilly's #74, Troy Aikman's #8, and Emmitt Smith's #22 will never be worn again in the regular season (though the Cowboys have occasionally used Lilly's 74 in the preseason). Additionally, Peyton Manning, upon his release by the Indianapolis Colts, owner Jim Irsay stated that no Colt will ever wear the number 18 again, though it was not officially retired. After his departure from the team in 2004, the Lakers removed Shaquille O'Neal's #34 from circulation. The Lakers had announced the intention to retire O'Neal's #34 officially, though, doing so on April 2, 2013.
Outside of USA, due to the relatively short history of One Day International and Twenty20 cricket, once a player retires, the number will rarely be re-issued to another player in some countries (e.g. Zimbabwe, New Zealand).
Some teams either formally or informally take a jersey out of circulation when a player dies or has his career ended by serious injury or disease. For instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs only retire a player's number if he experiences a career-ending incident while playing for the team. As a result, they have only retired two jerseys in their entire history; Ace Bailey's #6 was retired after he suffered a career-ending head injury  and Bill Barilko's #5 was retired after his disappearance and presumed death on a fishing trip (his death was confirmed years later with the discovery of the wreckage of the plane on which he was flying). The New York Yankees retired Lou Gehrig's #4 after he was forced to retire due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The New York Jets did not reissue the #90 of Dennis Byrd or the #80 of Wayne Chrebet after both suffered career-ending head injuries, but did not retire Byrd's number until 2012, 20 years after his injury, and have not yet retired Chrebet's number.
Some association football clubs have started doing this as squad numbers have become common. AS Roma, AC Milan, Internazionale, Napoli, Manchester City, Lens, Lyon and Swansea City have all retired shirt numbers; Milan retiring Franco Baresi's #6 shirt and Paolo Maldini's #3 shirt (with the caveat that one of Maldini's sons can wear the shirt if they play professionally for the club). The Swans retired the shirt number of Besian Idrizaj after he died in his sleep, of a suspected heart attack, at his family home in Linz, Austria. Manchester City, Lens and Lyon all retired the shirt number of Marc-Vivien Foé after his death on the field in the 2003 Confederations Cup; the Cameroon national team also attempted to retire Foé's number, but FIFA prevented them from doing so. FIFA also rejected an attempt by Argentina to retire the number of Diego Maradona.
In Finnish ice hockey, if a player's number is retired, family members (most notably his son, or son-in-law) can use the retired number if he plays for the same organization. Timo Nummelin had his number 3 retired by TPS, and later his son, Petteri Nummelin, wore number 3 for the team. Similarly, Italian AC Milan has promised to retire Paolo Maldini's number 3 once he retires, but with a provision that it could be used by his sons if either of them makes the club's first team squad.
Michigan Wolverines football unretired all of the numbers that it had retired to create legends jerseys worn by it best players. The unretired jerseys were Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47, Gerald Ford's No. 48, Ron Kramer's No. 87, The Wistert Brothers' (Whitey Wistert, Al Wistert, Alvin Wistert) No. 11 and Tom Harmon's No. 98.
In Australian rules football, some clubs may exercise the right to retire a particular jersey number, either to honour a past player or to simply cease use of the number. Examples include the Hawthorn Football Club, who retired their No. 1 guernsey prior to the beginning of the 2011 AFL season, and the Collingwood Football Club, who retired their No. 42 guernsey in honour of Darren Millane, a Collingwood premiership player who was killed in a car crash in 1991.
Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the modern era of Major League Baseball, had his number 42 retired league-wide in 1997 (although those players who were wearing the number at the time were permitted to retain it for the duration of their careers — as of the 2013 season, Mariano Rivera was the only remaining active player wearing the number, and he retired Sep 28, 2013). Apart from Rivera, the only exception to this retirement is on April 15, the anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut, when all players wear 42. Wayne Gretzky's number 99 was likewise retired league-wide by the National Hockey League upon his retirement from the game.
In NASCAR, only once has a number been officially retired; that is in the Whelen Modified Tour, where number 61 is retired for Richie Evans after his death in 1985. NASCAR unofficially retired the number 3 in honor of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. after his death on the track at the 2001 Daytona 500. Following his death, Earnhardt's old team changed to the number 29, and the replacement driver (Kevin Harvick) drove 29 car through the 2013 season. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made two special appearances in a number 3 car in the Busch Series in 2002 and again in the renamed Nationwide Series on July 2, 2010 at Daytona, but otherwise the number 3 was absent from all three national touring series until 2009, when Austin Dillon drove a number 3 in the Camping World Truck Series. Dillon is the grandson of Earnhardt's longtime friend and car owner Richard Childress, and he drives for Richard Childress Racing; after winning the Truck Series title in 2011, he drove the #3 car in the Nationwide Series in 2012 and 2013. Ty Dillon, Austin's brother (another grandson of Childress), ran the number 3 in the Camping World Truck Series and will drive the number 3 in the Nationwide Series starting in 2014. Austin will return the number 3 to the Sprint Cup Series for the first time since Earnhardt's death when he begins competing in that series full-time in the 2014 season with RCR.
Grand Prix motorcycle racing retired the use of #74 after the fatal accident of Daijiro Kato in 2003, #48 after the fatal accident of Shoya Tomizawa in 2010 and #58 after the accident Marco Simoncelli at the Sepang Circuit on 2011.
- Category:Sportsmen with retired numbers
- List of Major League Baseball retired numbers
- List of National Basketball Association retired jersey numbers
- List of National Football League retired numbers
- List of NHL retired numbers
- Retired numbers in association football
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2012)|
- Hanging from the Rafters NBA Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- Harding, Thomas (June 10, 2001). "Raymond Bourque timeline". The Gazette (Colorado Springs). Retrieved July 21, 2008.
- "Ford one of most athletic presidents". Associated Press. Sports Illustrated via CNN. December 27, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-01-02.
- Colts "retire" Manning's #18
- Maple Leafs alumni page on Ace Bailey
- Maple Leafs alumni page on Bill Barilko
- Cimini, Rich (October 24, 2012). "The bond no man could break". ESPNNewYork.com. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
- Scott Murray; Paolo Bandini (27 May 2009). "Which clubs have retired shirt numbers?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- "Serie A - Ronaldinho plays numbers game". Eurosport (Yahoo!). 22 July 2008.
- Kelly, Cathal (22 February 2007). "The monarch of defence". Toronto Star.
- Stokes, Shane (2011-05-12). "Weylandt’s race number retired from Giro d’Italia". VeloNation. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
- "Kazmaier '52, sports icon, dies at 82". Princeton Alumni Weekly 114 (1): 49. September 18, 2013.
- "U-M to Recognize Ford, Kramer and Oosterbaan as Football Legends". mgoblue.com. CBS Interactive. June 12, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- "Ford Named Michigan Football Legend; Morgan to Wear No. 48 Jersey". mgoblue.com. CBS Interactive. October 13, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
- Magpie Collingwood open to reviving No.42, Herald Sun, 13 May 2011
- Caraviello, David (September 3, 2009). "Childress grandson brings No. 3 back to national level". NASCAR. Retrieved 2012-03-20.