There is little doubt that Manuel will be joined on the Wall of Fame by a number of his former players. But should a few of those players also have their numbers retired?
On the day after Christmas, Matt Gelb of The Athletic continued a conversation that had previously taken place a few times over the last few years. Gelb published a piece that day in which he brought up the question of the Philadelphia Phillies policy on retiring uniform numbers.
The current Phillies unwritten policy was formulated back in the 1990’s. It holds that in order to be considered for a retired number, a player must be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Former director of public relations Larry Shenk is reported to have told Gelb for the piece that the policy was the result of an understanding between himself and club executives Bill Giles and David Montgomery.
As Gelb quotes Shenk: “We didn’t sit down and hash anything out. We didn’t put anything in writing. We didn’t take any votes. We just said, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’”
It was a bad decision made by just three individuals that has now morphed into an unwritten policy to which the franchise continues to cling.
The policy holds to some standard that says a player must wait until (if?) some group of Baseball Hall of Fame voters decides worthiness.
How many times have we seen the Hall voters get it wrong on a player, only to have a Veteran’s Committee right that wrong a decade or two or more later? So a worthy player who was passed over by original Hall voters has to wait until they are old and decrepit, or worse yet, dead, to have their number retired?
It is time for a new, more formalized procedure to be instituted on the issue of retiring numbers of the greatest and most beloved players to wear a Phillies uniform.
Now, admittedly this is my own personal opinion. However, it is one that is shared by the vast majority of Phillies fans.
More than the specific worthiness of any individual player, the most important item that needs to be addressed is that the Phillies need to publicly announce that their unwritten Hall of Fame enshrinement policy is to be eliminated.
So, how should the Phillies handle the issue of retiring uniform numbers?
The Phillies organization should impanel a standing Honors Board made up of between seven to nine individuals whose responsibility would be to make final decisions on both the annual Phillies Wall of Fame honorees and also on retired numbers. The makeup of that board at any given time should be made public and available on the team’s official website.
Speaking of that Wall of Fame, yes, it is a great honor to be enshrined among the franchise greats. However, there can be little argument that even among Wall of Famers there are those who can be elevated above the rest due to their combination of outstanding individual playing careers, championship pedigrees, and relationships with the fan base.
Jim Bunning has the uniform number 14 retired in his number. Bunning pitched just six seasons in a Phillies uniform, won 89 games with the team, was a 2x NL All-Star while with the club, was the 1967 NL Cy Young runner-up, and never won a championship here.
Meanwhile, Hamels pitched for most of 10 seasons in Philly. He won 114 games in a Phillies uniform, was a 3x NL All-Star, finished among the top 8 in NL Cy Young voting four times, and was the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS and World Series for the Phillies 2008 title-winning team.
Rollins is the franchise all-time leader in hits. The emotional connection that he has with the fan base is similar to what teammates Utley, Howard, and Hamels enjoy, which stretching further back is what Daulton and McGraw enjoyed in decades before them.
Their skipper, Charlie Manuel, is just as beloved as his star players, perhaps even more so, and should have his number 41 retired by the club. He not only piloted the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship, but also to a 2009 National League pennant, five consecutive NL East Division crowns, and to 780 total victories, more than any other manage in franchise history.
No man has worn a Phillies uniform for more years in more roles than Bowa: world championship player, winning record as a manager after a lengthy losing era, respected and dedicated coach, organizational advisor.
Roy Halladay wore the number 34 and Jim Thome wore number 25, each in parts of four seasons with the Phillies. Each is beloved and respected by the fan base. Retiring their numbers would be popular, and would fit with the current Hall of Fame policy.
But when you consider their actual contributions to the history of the team when matched against the others? Not really a question.
Besides the number 42, which has been retired by all Major League Baseball teams in honor of Jackie Robinson, there are five numbers retired for Phillies greats.
In my opinion, those six should be joined by 6, 10, 11, 15, 25, 34, 41, and 45 over the next few years. That would give the Phillies 13 retired numbers. When you consider that the New York Yankees have 22 numbers retired and that the Phillies have been around for 137 seasons, it really isn’t alot.
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