Our man Edgar: patient at the plate and in life.
On Saturday the Seattle Mariners are finally retiring the number of Edgar Martinez, our beloved 3B/DH, now hitting coach, a future Hall of Famer and a .300/.400/.500 man who knew only one team: us. I've written about him many times. I've also urged the organization to do this very thing for years. There was no reason not to. We treated him shitty, he never left us, he left his mark in the record books. But the Mariners are the Mariners. They keep doing the wrong thing.
Tonight they'll finally get it right.
I was going to go to the game, bought tickets, 300-level behind homeplate, but life intervenes. But thoughts go out.
Edgar will be only the second Mariner to have his number retired (after Junior last year), and I'd encourage the team that never listens to someday retire a few others: #51 for both Ichiro and Randy, #34 for Felix, and maybe #19 for Jay Buhner. Others? Moyers' #50?
This is a relatively new phenomenon, by the way. Teams didn't put numbers on players' backs until 1929 (Indians, Yankees), and originally the number was the order in which they batted. That's why #3 for Babe Ruth, #4 for Lou Gehrig. It was to let the fans in the stands know who was who. Since lineups change often, it probably became too difficult to maintain this conceit and things morphed into what they are.
The first retired number was announced on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Day, Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth day, when, with Gehrig suddenly dying of the disease that would bear his name, the Yankees basically announced: “No one is fit to wear this uniform again.” For some reason, the New York Giants retired Carl Hubbel's #11 in 1944, and four years later, Babe Ruth's #3, which seven other Yankees wore after Ruth was cut from the team in '35, was retired on the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium. A month later, the Giants' retired Mel Ott's #4.
In general, particularly in the early days, retired numbers were reserved for either great players (DiMaggio in '52) or men dying young (Fred Hutchinson of the Reds in '64, Jim Umbricht of the Astros in '65). Don't see much of the latter anymore.
The '70s were the decade when the phenomenon really took off:
- 1930s: 1
- 1940s: 3
- 1950s: 4
- 1960s: 8
- 1970s: 29
The last year when no numbers were retired? 1981. That awful strike-shortened, dual season year. The year I graduated high school.
This year, the following numbers have already been retired: #20 for the Indians (Frank Robinson), #34 for the Red Sox (David Ortiz), #56 for the White Sox (Mark Buehrle), and #2 for the Yankees (Derek Somethingorother). Now add Edgar. About time. He's been patient. He's been as patient with the Mariners as he was with every pitcher he ever saw.