Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Phillies bestowed Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay with their highest honor when they retired his jersey. No member of the Phillies’ organization will ever wear number 34 again, instead, it will hang in Ashburn Alley directly between Steve Carlton’s 32 and Robin Roberts’ 36.
Whereas the New York Yankees are eventually going to run out of enough eligible numbers for players to wear if they keep retiring them at their current pace (the Bronx bombers have retired 22 jerseys including the number eight twice), the Phillies have only retired seven numbers. One (center fielder Richie Ashburn), 14 (pitcher Jim Bunning), 15 (third basemen Dick Allen), 20 (third basemen Mike Schmidt), 32 (Carlton), 34 (Halladay), and 36 (Roberts).
Additionally, the franchise has also honored pitcher Pete Alexander and outfielder Chuck Klein, though both pre-dated jersey numbers and are represented with a large “P” instead. The number 42 is also retired across Major League Baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson.
When the Phillies retired Allen’s 15 last September, he became the first member of the franchise to have his number retired before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The decision was definitely the right one, but it also signaled an interesting change in regards to which players they might honor going forward.
With the organization’s qualifications opening up to other players who have left a seismic impact on the franchise, I began to think about some players throughout team history who should one day have their jersey retired. Here are four Phillies who deserve to be honored out in Ashburn Alley:
4. Ryan Howard
One of the greatest power threats of his generation, and a key part of the 2008 World Series team, Ryan Howard was an instrumental piece of the greatest teams in Phillies’ history. He also hammered his way to an impressive number of accolades that set him apart from so many players who also donned red pinstripes.
Howard burst onto the scene in 2005 hitting .288/.356/.567 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs in just 88 games. He went onto win NL Rookie of the Year honors that season and his performance turned so many heads that it convinced the Phillies to trade future Hall of Famer Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox that offseason. That trade cemented Howard as the team’s unquestioned full-time first basemen and unleashed him on an unprecedented run of power hitting.
Howard followed up his rookie season by hitting a franchise-record 58 home runs with 149 RBIs. He would go on to win the 2006 NL MVP award and the Home Run Derby, cementing himself as arguably the pre-eminent power threat of his generation.
Howard still holds the distinction of being the fastest player in MLB history to 100, 200, and 250 career home runs by games played. He currently ranks as the second-fastest player in the history of the sport to 300.
Phillies’ 1B Ryan Howard was arguably the best power hitter of his era
From his MVP season in 2006 through 2012, no player in Major League Baseball had more home runs than Ryan Howard. The next closest player, Albert Pujols had just two fewer but he hit them in 78 more games.
In fact, from 2005 until his final season in the major leagues, 2016, Howard’s 380 home runs ranked fourth in all of baseball. A miraculous feat considering that injuries severely derailed him at the end of his career. The three players ahead of him Pujols (431), David Ortiz (411), and Miguel Cabrera (401) each played between 122 and 296 more games than Howard over that same time.
It’s hard not to think about what could have been if injuries didn’t start to get the better of Ryan Howard. After blowing out his Achilles on the final play of the 2011 NLDS, he would play in more than 130 games just once before his retirement.
Towards the end of his time in Philadelphia, Howard started to bear the brunt of the fan bases’ frustration with the team. Limited availability, poor play, and an albatross contract made him an easy target.
However, none of that should hamper what he was able to accomplish during his time in Philadelphia. He was indisputably one of the greatest power hitters of his era and the heart of the lineup for many of the best teams the franchise ever had.
He currently ranks in the top 10 in Phillies history in a number of highly valued categories including; games played (seventh) slugging percentage (sixth), extra-base hits (fourth), intentional walks (second), win probability added (second), at-bats per home run (second), and of course home runs (second).
He also holds the franchises’ post-season records for doubles, extra-base hits, and RBIs. Oh, and he owns the Phillies’ record for career grand slams. Howard’s number six should rightfully hang in Ashburn Alley.