In the rich history of Philadelphia Phillies baseball, only five players who have worn the Phils’ uniform have actual numbers retired in their names.
There have been more than 1,900 players don that uniform in the 133 seasons that the Phillies have participated in the National League. Of those players, only 11 spent the majority of their career with the Phils, and were subsequently enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But only six of those 11 actually wore a uniform with a number. The other five: Grover Cleveland ‘Pete Alexander‘, Dave Bancroft, Ed Delahanty, Billy Hamilton, Sam Thompson, and Harry Wright all played in the late-19th and/or early-20th century, prior to numbers being used on baseball uniforms.
Of the six who did wear a uniform number, one of those, Chuck Klein, wore multiple numbers during his playing career. Klein and Alexander have “symbols” retired in their honor. For Klein, the symbol is the old-English lettering ‘P’ worn by the team during his first half-dozen years with the team. For Alexander, that symbol is the block style letter ‘P’ worn during their first-ever NL Pennant season in 1915, when “Ole Pete” was the pitching ace.
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The five players who actually do have a number retired in their honor are: Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), and Robin Roberts (36). Of course, along with the rest of Major League Baseball, the team has also retired #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The criteria for having your number retired by the franchise has been fairly nebulous to this point. Yes, the five men with actual numbers retired are all in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, Ashburn, Carlton, and Schmidt all had their numbers retired by the team prior to that enshrinement. In fact, Ashburn’s number was officially retired in 1979, a full 16 years prior to his election to the Baseball Hall. The team only unofficially retired Roberts number after he left the team. The official retirement did not come until 2008.
Bunning had his number retired by the team, even though a majority of his career was spent with the Detroit Tigers. Bunning pitched with the Tigers for the first nine years of his 17-year big league career, and then six with the Phils after a trade from Detroit. He then returned to the Phillies for his final two seasons after stops with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since there is no “current Hall of Famer” requirement, the Phillies at this point should really be considering a retirement of the number ’10’ in honor of Larry Bowa, who I featured in the most recent installment of the ‘Philography’ series of bios here at TBOH.
Signing with the team back in 1965, Bowa would rise through its minor league system to become the Phillies starting shortstop for a dozen years, including the 1980 World Series championship team.
He was a 5x NL All-Star, 2x Gold Glover, and finished 3rd in the 1978 NL MVP voting. In 1971, he recorded the first hit in Veteran’s Stadium history.
Bowa became the club’s 3rd base coach in August of 1988, and served in that role for the next eight seasons as well. In 1993 he became one of the first to play and coach in the World Series for the Phillies.
He was then named the Phillies manager in November of 2000, and immediately turned around a perennial loser, serving four seasons as the skipper. He guided the team from Veteran’s Stadium into Citizens Bank Park.
Then in 2014, Bowa once again returned as the bench coach, a role that he still holds.
In all, Bowa has served the Phillies organization for nearly 27 of his 50 years in baseball, including in some of the most key roles at some of the most memorable moments in franchise history. He is absolutely deserving of becoming the next to have his number retired with the Phillies.