Before today’s game against the New York Yankees, a ceremony will be held to induct the newest member of the Angel Hall of Fame, former outfielder Garret Anderson. He will rightly join the fourteen other inductees already enshrined in the club’s hall, but the question on many fans’ minds is, in addition to his hall induction, should he also have his number retired by the Angels?
Besides the baseball-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number 42, the Angels have already retired Jim Fregosi’s number 11, Rod Carew’s number 29, Nolan Ryan’s number 30, Jimmie Reese’s number 50, and number 26 in honor of Gene Autry, but should Garret Anderson’s number 16 be added to this list?
If anyone has deserved this honor, it is Anderson. No Angel in the history of the franchise has played in more games (2013), scored more runs (1024), had more hits (2368), or had more RBI (1292) than Anderson. Additionally, he was a three-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger award winner, a two-time league leader in doubles, and an All-Star game MVP. Oh, and let’s not forget his most important credential — he drove in the winning run in the deciding game of the 2002 World Series.
The thing is, I do not like the tradition of retiring numbers.
On the one hand, you can thank the New York Yankees for that. They have retired so many numbers that it makes them look like the snobbish elite who need to be knocked down off of its high horse. But on the other hand, there is something special about having a certain number belong to more than one of your team’s greatest players. Take the number 27, for instance. For me, the number 27 is a magical number, in part because it was the number Vladimir Guerrero wore in his six years with the Halos during the second golden era in Angel history. It was the number he wore during his MVP season when he carried the Angels on his back at the end of 2004 and into the playoffs. He had 27 sewn onto his jersey when he made all of those legendary throws from right field, hit a ball to the outfield wall after it had bounced on the ground in front of home plate, and hit all of those incredible home runs, whether the pitch was tight inside, two inches off of the ground, or in the upper nineties up and away like the one from Brad Penny in the All-Star game in 2007.
Number 27 was also the number of the first great slugger in Angel history — Leon Wagner. In his three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels from 1961 through 1963, Wagner had an OPS+ of 124 when he averaged 30 home runs and 92 RBI a season. He won the first ever All-Star Game MVP that was awarded to an American League player, and he came in fourth in MVP voting in 1962 for his role in a season in which the Angels came shockingly close to toppling the Yankees for the American League pennant.
And then of course, there is Mike Trout who continues to add to the legend of number 27 as he does all of the amazing things he does while wearing this special number. In the future when Trout is no longer an Angel, it will be exciting to discover who will be the next player to don a jersey with the number 27 emblazoned on it to continue the legacy of this magical number.
That is, if it hasn’t been retired by then.