Yesterday I noted that Paul Pierce had worn a “2” on his headband on Wednesday night, because that’s the number the Celtics have retired for Red Auerbach. (I mistakenly thought Pierce had inscribed the numeral onto the fabric himself with a Magic Marker, but it turns out it was wovern into the headband.) This is one of two numbers that the Celtics have retired in honor of people who never actually wore the team’s uniform: In 1964 they retired No. 1 for team founder/owner Walter Brown, to commemorate his unrivaled importance in team history; and in 1985 they retired No. 2 for Auerbach. According to the team’s web site, “The number signifies the fact that Auerbach is second only to Walter Brown as the most significant person in the history of the Boston Celtics organization.”
Am I the only one who thinks this is total bullshit? Uniform numbers are, y’know, numbers worn on uniforms — how can you retire a number for somebody who wore a suit? (Hmmm, maybe they could retire the number of his suit size.) Depite the seemingly self-evident incongruity of this practice, it has gained a small but apparently secure foothold in the sports world. Among the other examples:
• The Knicks have retired No. 613, the number of victories compiled by former coach Red Holtzman.
• The Sacramento Kings have retired No. 6, in honor of their fans, who serve as the team’s “sixth man.”
• Similarly, the Angels retired No. 26 for former owner Gene Autry, because he was the team’s “26th man.”
• The Cardinals retired No. 85 for team owner August A. Busch, Jr., on his 85th birthday. (Also note the retired non-number for Rogers Hornsby, who played before the uni-numbered era.)
• Before the Marlins ever played a game, they retired No. 5 in honor of team executive Carl Barger, whose favorite player was Joe DiMaggio.
• In an even lamer move, when the Wild came into being in 2000, the team immediately retired No. 1, as a “You’re number one!” message to Minnesota hockey fans.
I’m sure there are other examples out there, but the whole thing is so annoying that I had to stop researching. Look, I’m not against honoring important people — this is nice, and so is this, and even this. But the whole point of retiring a number is that the number has become emotionally and culturally connected to the person wearing it — that’s why it’s taken out of circulation, because it would be unthinkable for anyone else to wear it. That doesn’t work for people who never wore a number to begin with.
4-Gone Conclusion: Turning to a completely different type of retired number, reader H. Beezy has generously provided some screen shots of Charlie Bell’s wardrobe malfunction from Wednesday night’s Bucks/Pistons game. I especially like this one. Not exactly the most auspicious debut for Milwaukee’s new unis.
Now if we could just get some pics of Terry Glenn’s contraband Ohio State buckeye helmet decal from the October 23rd Cowboys/Giants game — shaping up as the holy grail of 2006 screen shots — then we’d really be up to date. If anyone from the NFL Network is reading this, kindly hook us up, post-haste.
Uni Watch News Ticker: What is Mike Miller wearing in his hair? … Matthew Spencer notes that the Oklahoma basketball team is wearing a jersey patch, which appears to be a version of the Oklahoma centennial logo (which, if you look closely, is incorrectly using a single open-quote, instead of an apostrophe, to mark the year). … Mark Bryan sent along some shots of Georgia wearing alternate pant colors that I’d forgotten about: red in 1980 (looks pretty cool, no?) and black in 1998 (looks like crap, no?). … Good post over on Chris Creamer‘s board about MLB’s new 5950 caps for next season. According to someone whose store just got a shipment of them, the new caps are, as expected, 100% polyester instead of wool, have a black underbill and sweatband and a raised MLB logo, and look like this on the inner crown. … The iconic Lower Trenton Delaware River Bridge has been incorporated into the Trenton Titans’ logo and jersey yoke (here’s a rear view). Love the local civic reference, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. (Thanks to Tony Senese for the tip.) … The horror, the horror. … Chad Johnson’s “Ocho Cinco” stunt earned him a $5000 fine (which seems kinda unnecessary — I mean, jeez, it was only during pregame warm-ups). … Helmet Hut has a very sharp-looking new line of Miami reproduction helmets. … If you couldn’t access the Bolding Sports Research links in yesterday’s blog because we’d maxed out the site’s bandwidth, scroll down and try again — the site is back up (at least until we crash it again) and is essential viewing for anyone reading this.