Retired numbers: Philadelphia Phillies

The club is ignoring its own policy, and it should keep doing so

The Philadelphia Phillies have a rule — supposedly ironclad — about jersey retirements. They pull an ex-player’s number from the active rotation only if he has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the cap on his plaque carries a Phillies logo.

Or so they’ve always said.

But then they retired Dick Allen’s No. 15 last year. Allen’s contemporaries considered him to be an elite player. “His numbers are far and above a lot of the guys who are in the Hall of Fame,” insists Mike Schmidt, himself one of the greatest Phillies ever. Yet the folks in Cooperstown have not yet agreed.

Roy Halladay, on the other hand, is already in the Hall, but his cap has no logo. He pitched 12 seasons in Toronto, just four in Philadelphia, and 148 of his 203 wins came for the Blue Jays. But the Phillies are nonetheless planning to retire Halladay’s No. 34 sometime this year.

So much for the ironclad policy.

The Phillies have retired nine jerseys in all, or at least they’ll reach that number whenever Halladay’s ceremony is held. That puts them 10th among big-league teams — still far behind the Yankees’ 22 retirements, but ahead of two-thirds of all clubs.

If they once again adhere to their supposed guidelines, the Phillies are out of candidates. But if they continue to loosen the restraints, there are plenty of future possibilities, as we’ll see in this latest installment of my club-by-club breakdown of retired uniforms.

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Phillies’ numbers already retired

The Phillies have retired eight — soon to be nine — uniforms. Here’s a rundown in numerical order, capped by a pair of honorees with blank jerseys.

No. 1 Richie Ashburn won a pair of batting titles during his dozen years in Philadelphia (1948-1959). He paced the National League with averages of .338 in 1955 and .350 in 1958. Ashburn also led the NL in hits, walks, and on-base percentage three times apiece while with the Phillies. He is one of four men in club history to amass more than 1,000 runs and 2,200 hits.

No. 14 Jim Bunning pitched nine seasons for Detroit before being traded. He spent most of the rest of his 17-year career with the Phillies (1964-1967, 1970-1971). Bunning surrendered just 1.11 walks and hits per inning, the fourth-best ratio in franchise history. He did considerably better than that on June 21, 1964, when he pitched the seventh perfect game in big-league annals.

No. 15 Dick Allen (1963-1969, 1975-1976) is the only non-Hall of Famer whose number has been retired by the Phillies. He generally played third base during his first Philadelphia tour, then switched to first base upon his return. Allen was named Rookie of the Year in 1964. He posted a slugging average of .530 during his nine years with the Phillies, the club’s third-highest figure.

Many experts consider No. 20 Mike Schmidt to have been the greatest third baseman of all time. He played his entire 18-season career in Philadelphia (1972-1989), winning three Most Valuable Player Awards, eight National League home run titles, and 10 Gold Gloves. Schmidt’s 106.9 wins above replacement (WAR) are easily the most in franchise history, as are his 2,404 games, 1,506 runs, and 548 home runs.

No. 32 Steve Carlton’s greatest year in a Phillies uniform may have been the very first, when he posted a 27-10 record to win 1972’s Cy Young Award. The rest of the pitchers on Philadelphia’s staff went 32-87. Carlton won 241 games and a total of four Cy Young trophies in his 15 years with the Phillies (1972-1986). He remains the club’s career leader in victories, games started (499), and strikeouts (3,031).

A ceremony had been scheduled in 2020 to retire the No. 34 worn by Roy Halladay, but Covid-19 forced a delay. Halladay spent only the final quarter (2010-2013) of his 16-year career in Philadelphia, but they were eventful years. He pitched a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010, then followed up with a no-hitter against the Reds in that year’s National League Division Series.

No. 36 Robin Roberts (1948-1961) was a true workhorse, leading the National League in innings pitched every year from 1951 through 1955. He won at least 20 games six times, peaking with a 28-7 record in 1952. Roberts unsurprisingly ranks as the club’s all-time leader in several categories for durability, including games pitched (529), innings pitched (3,739), and complete games (272).

Pete Alexander, often referred to by his full name of Grover Cleveland Alexander, began and ended his 20-year pitching career in Philadelphia (1911-1917, 1930). The Phillies didn’t adopt numbered uniforms until 1932, so a blank jersey was set aside for Alexander. The righthander went 190-91 for the Phils, yielding a winning percentage of .676, still the best in team history. His 61 shutouts also rank first. 

Right fielder Chuck Klein sported various numerals during his three stints with the Phillies (1928-1933, 1936-1939, 1940-1944): Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26, 29, 32, and 36. The club took the easy way out, retiring a numberless jersey in his honor. His slugging average of .553 still ranks as the highest for anyone who played for the Phils, and his totals of home runs (243) and runs batted in (983) are both fifth.

Phillies’ candidates for retired numbers

Let’s assume that the Phillies will continue to cast a wider net for jersey retirements. Here are eight names to consider, listed in chronological order.

Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty played long before numbers were affixed to uniforms (1888-1889, 1891-1901). The outfielder topped the National League with a breathtaking .410 batting average in 1899, and his career mark of .348 is the second-highest in club history. Delahanty also ranks first on the Phils’ all-time list for triples (158), second for both doubles (442) and RBIs (1,288), and fourth for hits (2,214).

No. 41 Chris Short (1959-1972) is a forgotten name, though undeservedly so. He was one of the National League’s better pitchers in the mid-1960s, winning at least 17 games in four different seasons. His best year was 1966, when he went 20-10. Short is fourth in franchise history in three categories — wins (132), innings (2,253), and strikeouts (1,585).

Only three players — Schmidt, Jimmy Rollins, and Ashburn — played more games for the Phillies than No. 10 Larry Bowa (1970-1981), who appeared in 1,739. The shortstop had flashes of brilliance, finishing third in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and third again for the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1978. He later managed the Phils with moderate success from 2001 to 2004.

The aforementioned No. 11 Jimmy Rollins (2000-2014) peaked in 2007, when he won the Most Valuable Player Award, leading the league with 139 runs scored and 20 triples. The shortstop also earned four Gold Gloves. Rollins is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits (2,306) and doubles (479), and he’s second in games played (2,090) and stolen bases (453).

A case could be made that No. 26 Chase Utley (2003-2015) was the key component of Philadelphia’s 2008 World Series championship machine. The second baseman was second on the club in homers (33), runs batted in (104), and batting average (.292), and his 9.0 WAR was 3.5 better than anybody else’s. Utley is sixth among all Phillies ever in runs (949) and homers (233).

No. 6 Ryan Howard (2004-2016) was the great slugger on the 2008 championship squad. He led the National League that year by smashing 48 home runs and driving home 146 runs. The first baseman had already been named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 and its MVP in 2006. He is second in the team’s rankings for home runs (382) and third in RBIs (1,194).

The Phils topped .500 in each of the first seven seasons they were managed by No. 41 Charlie Manuel (2005-2013). He reached his zenith with a pair of National League crowns in 2008 and 2009, capping the former with the world title. His 780 wins are the most for any manager in club history.

No. 35 Cole Hamels (2006-2015) earned a place in Phillies lore when he was dubbed the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 World Series. Hamels ranks third in franchise history with 1,844 strikeouts, and his 43.0 WAR is the highest for any Phillies pitcher whose number has not been retired.

The outlook

Sorry to all of the Delahanty fans out there. The Phillies have had more than a century to honor him, yet have studiously avoided doing so. There’s no reason to expect them to change.

Short played second fiddle to Bunning on Philadelphia’s pitching staff in the 1960s and has retained that role ever since. His numbers are good, though not compelling enough to warrant a retirement ceremony.

The fiery Bowa is a Phillies legend, long associated with the club as a player, coach, and manager. It isn’t inconceivable that his number could be retired, but he’ll have to stand in line. Several candidates with better credentials are ahead of him.

That leaves the five contenders who are associated with the immortal 2008 club. It’s anybody’s guess who might be selected, but the Phillies’ equipment managers are giving us a hint. 

Manuel’s No. 41 remains in circulation today. But nobody has been issued Nos. 6, 11, 26, and 35 since Howard, Rollins, Utley, and Hamels left the clubhouse. You might say that their jerseys are already as good as retired.

All that remains is for the Phillies to schedule the ceremonies.

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