11 Jersey Numbers Retired for Unconventional Reasons

Retiring a player’s jersey number is most often reserved for all-time greats. Other times, it’s a tribute to a player whose career is cut short by illness or death. And sometimes, as in the case of Lou Gehrig — the first professional player to have his number retired — it’s both. Here are 11 numbers that have been retired for a variety of different reasons.

1. #455 – Cleveland Indians

One of the only triple-digit numbers to be retired, the Indians honored their fans with a ceremony on April 22, 2001. From June 12, 1995, to April 2, 2001, the Indians sold out a record 455 consecutive games at Jacobs Field. The Colorado Rockies owned the previous record for most consecutive sellouts with 203. "I believe it's safe to say that this amazing feat of consecutive sellouts will never be matched," Indians owner Larry Dolan said after the streak was snapped in the second game of the 2001 season. "I hope our fans take great pride in setting the standard in major league baseball." Dolan was wrong. This past season, the Boston Red Sox watched their sellout streak at Fenway Park surpass 700 games.

2. #23 – Miami Heat

Despite the fact that he never played for them, the Heat retired Michael Jordan’s No. 23 before his final game in Miami in 2003.

“In honor of your greatness and for all you’ve done for the game of basketball – and not just the NBA, but for all the fans around the world – we want to honor you tonight and hang your jersey, No. 23, from the rafters,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You’re the best.”

Jordan averaged 30.1 points in 38 career games against the Miami. LeBron James, who previously wore No. 23, announced his plans to switch to No. 6 out of respect for Jordan during what would turn out to be his final year in Cleveland.

3. #5 – Cincinnati Reds

When the Reds honored Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in 1984, it marked the second time the franchise had retired No. 5. The first time came under much sadder circumstances.

Late in the 1940 season, Cincinnati backup catcher Willard Hershberger, who was forced into action following an injury to Ernie Lombardi, committed suicide. Hershberger, whose father had committed suicide when Willard was 18, blamed himself after the Reds were swept in a double-header, and reportedly expressed his suicidal thoughts to manager Bill McKechnie. The Reds dedicated the rest of the season to the man they called Hershie and defeated the Tigers in the World Series. Hershberger’s No. 5 was temporarily retired, but reactivated in 1942. Bench, a 14-time All-Star, wore it proudly from 1967-1983.

4. #12 – Seattle Seahawks

Quarterback Sam Adkins, a 10th round draft pick out of Wichita State, appeared in 11 games for the Seahawks from 1977-1981. He completed 17-of-39 passes for two touchdowns and four interceptions, and the number he wore is retired along with former teammate Steve Largent’s No. 80 and left tackle Walter Jones’s 71. What gives? In 1984, the team retired No. 12 in honor of its fans (not Adkins) in a ceremony at the Kingdome. The Seahawks have taken great pride in the home-field advantage provided by their 12th Man.

The Seahawks and Texas A&M, which began using the 12th Man slogan in 1922 and trademarked it in 1990, settled a dispute over the use of the slogan in 2006. If the Seahawks use the 12th Man moniker in radio or TV broadcasts, they must mention that the slogan is copyright of Texas A&M.

5. #7 – Washington Capitals

Yvon Labre scored 14 goals in nine NHL seasons, but his No. 7 hangs from the rafters at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Labre joined the Capitals in their first season, scored the team’s first goal at home, and was captain from 1976-78. Fans and teammates respected Labre’s constant hustle, even as the Capitals struggled through some ugly seasons. He was an assistant coach and color commentator for the team after his retirement and later served as the Capitals’ director of community relations. Labre’s number was retired on Nov. 7, 1981.

6. #1 - Pittsburgh Pirates

Bill Meyer compiled a record of 317-452 during his stint as Pittsburgh manager from 1948-52, and in his final year, the Pirates lost a franchise-worst 112 games. Why then, in 1954, was Meyer the second Pittsburgh player or manager to have his number retired (after the legendary Honus Wagner)?

Meyer’s declining health was well documented and he was a popular figure with the Pittsburgh media and fans. As Baseball Digest’s editors explained in 1990, “He was well liked even though his teams finished 4th, 6th, 8th, 7th, and 8th during his managerial tenure…Meyer’s record as a minor league manager – a highly successful one – also figured in the decision.” Meyer suffered a stroke in 1955 and died in 1957 at the age of 64.

7. #42 – MLB

Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across the entire league on April 15, 1997, 50 years after Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players who were wearing the number at the time were allowed to keep it. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only active player who wears No. 42.

8. #9 – Real Salt Lake

When Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey announced his decision to retire Jason Kreis’s No. 9 earlier this year, controversy erupted. Even Kreis, who scored only 17 of his 108 career goals as an MLS player with Real Salt Lake before taking over as coach, questioned whether he deserved the honor. Internationally, retiring jerseys is rare in soccer, and typically reserved for players who have died. “We live in America,” Lagerwey said at the start of an epic rant defending the decision. “We play in an American soccer league. We have playoffs, we don’t have relegation, we retire numbers.”

9. #7 – New Orleans Hornets

When the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, the team retired Pete Maravich’s No. 7. The Utah Jazz, for whom Maravich played the majority of his career, had previously retired Pistol Pete’s number. All but one of Maravich’s years with the Jazz came before the team moved from New Orleans to Salt Lake City. That, coupled with Maravich’s tremendous college career at LSU, was the Hornets’ reasoning for retiring his number. The team’s only other retired number is 13, which belonged to Bobby Phills. The Baton Rouge native died in a car crash in 2000.

10. #99 – NHL

After Wayne Gretzky played his final game on April 18, 1999, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that his iconic No. 99 would be retired across the league. “You have always been and always will be ‘The Great One,’” Bettman said. “There will never be another.”

11. #40 – Arizona Cardinals

Pat Tillman starred as a linebacker at Arizona State and was selected in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He converted to safety and, in 2000, set a new team record for tackles. Following the 2001 season, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer to enlist in the Army with his brother, Kevin. Tillman became the first NFL player to die in combat since the Vietnam War when he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004. The Cardinals retired Tillman’s No. 40 in a ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium later that year.

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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