Rewind 2023: Yankee Stadium's Retired Numbers
From April 4th, 2023: this panel at Yankee Stadium is always a work in progress. Every year, players work their way toward future consideration for this forever honor. If he remains healthy and productive, it's easy to envision Aaron Judge's #99 being added; now that he's won his first Cy Young Award, one could imagine a space to honor Gerrit Cole.
I contend that there is at least one other Yankee legend who should be considered. The trouble is that no one reading this saw him play. Earle Combs, the original number-one, was the leadoff batter on those iconic clubs led by Ruth and Gehrig. Because he played before the era of TV (and in the Yanks' case, radio, as well), his exploits never received all the publicity he deserved. Still, it's hard to overlook a career .325 hitter with a lifetime .397 on-base percentage who led the league in triples three times -- and averaged 17 a season.
I understand that sports and marketing are forever linked. It's easier to promote the heroics of Jeter, Rivera, Jackson, Guidry and O'Neill. They're still with us, and are will be faces of the franchise as long as they live. But for a team that celebrates its history, allowing the player nicknamed "The Kentucky Colonel" to fall between the cracks and be forgotten because he can't be on hand for Old Timers Day or schmooze with the sponsors just isn't fair.
Look at Combs' career numbers -- all compiled as a Yankee. Yes, we have all heard the expression about home run hitters driving Cadillacs and singles hitters, Chevys. But Combs produced plenty more -- frankly, a lot of the RBIs that belong to the Babe and Lou were from them driving in the first Yankee to ear number-one, Earle Combs.
Don't say it can't be done. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey "share" number eight. I don't believe anyone in Billy Martin's family would mind if a co-honoree for number-one was added, especially someone so worthy.