Listen, I like Brock Holt. You like Brock Holt. We all like Brock Holt because we get that (a) he is a Quadruple-A player who can cover an injury for a couple weeks at the big league level, (b) we do not expect that he is going to be a starter, so anything he contributes is a bonus, and (c) his name reminds us of Arrested Development, which is awesome because Arrested Development is awesome. We all like Brock Holt (O/).
A man wearing the number 26, manning the hot corner? It seems like deja vu. Because. It. Is. We were there. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs wore number 26 for the Red Sox. Wade Boggs dominated the 1980’s in Boston, got to 3,000 hits, was elected on his first ballot to
the Hall of Fame, was a Sabermetric all-star before you knew who Bill James was, and has a Red Sox hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.
So why is his number not retired?
Oh, yeah, that is why. That’s not petty or anything. It’s not like Boston has had two parades since then in order to wash away that memory or anything. But the Red Sox are not particularly good about honoring their history. For example, it took until, oh, I don’t know, last Sunday in order to put up a statue of Carl Yastrzemski.
But, the Red Sox are sort of slow at honoring the past. Look at the retired numbers (that you admittedly know by heart). Does it not seem a little light?
The Red Sox are notoriously light at retiring numbers. In fact, they have specific requirements to qualify: The player/manager must (a) spend a decade in Boston and (b) be elected to the Hall of Fame. This is, of course, disqualifies Pedro Martinez (1998-2004).
Now, the Red Sox do not have the history that the Yankees have (ducks like George W. Bush with a show flying at his head), but look at their retired numbers:
Sure, the Red Sox have their (more or less) equivalents of Joe DiMaggio (5) to Ted Williams (9), Yaz (8) to Reggie Jackson (44), or Johnny Pesky (6) to Phil Rizzuto (10). But where are the Red Sox’s Ron Guidry (49), Thurman Munson (15), Don Mattingly (23),
Elston Howard (32), or Billy Martin (1)?
If that is not bad enough, the Red Sox gave Dwight Evans number (24) to Kevin Mitchell, Shane Mack, and Mike Stanley before allowing Manny Ramirez to wear it. Since then, they gave it to Takashi Saito (!). A total of 45 players wore the retired numbers of Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), and Johnny Pesky (6) between the time they retired and their numbers were retired (including Bill Buckner when, well, you know…).
I understand wanting to be discriminate about retiring jersey numbers, but it is not near as sacred as it is about celebrating the past. So quit giving number 23 to Pedro Ciriaco (it’s El Tiante’s). Double retire number 24 for Dewey and ManRam. Retire number 43 for
Dennis Eckersley (who is still with the organization). Think about honoring Schilling’s contribution to two World Series titles after nearly a centuries drought. Keep number 33 to Jason Varitek (I mean he will never qualify for the Hall of Fame). And, for the love of
God, do not trot out some journeyman middle reliever in the year 2021 with the 34 jersey on (David Ortiz may not make the Hall of Fame either.
Maybe all of this is overblown. Numbers only matter so much, we are not the Yankees (in more ways than one), and history is celebrated in many ways. But, in the age of free agency, expansion, and Hall of Fame log jams, it is time to loosen the restrictions and celebrate some of the great players and personalities in Red Sox history. Jersey numbers retired or not, the memories of these legends will not easily dissipate. But, being reminded of their greatness every time we take a seat at Fenway is an added bonus to
the fan experience. History adds ambience, emotion, and enjoyment. Retired numbers is not about gate keeping, but celebrating.
So seriously, give Brock a different number and let Wade Boggs back into our history. And seriously, hand out Pedro’s number to anyone, and it is a fight!
(Also……I so cannot wait until next Spring Training when we can all begin sizing up the right field corner of Fenway with Xander Bogaerts’ number.)