Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Luis Aparicio, 2008 Topps Ring of Honor #RH-LA

Since I took advantage of another snow day today to finally update my NumerOlogy website, I currently have uniform numbers on the brain. Now I'm thinking about retired numbers, or more to the point, unretired numbers.

I've only heard of two instances in which a team retired a player's number to honor his contributions, only to put the number back into circulation later. Both times, the team in question was the Chicago White Sox, and both times the previously honored player was a former Oriole.

In 1989, the White Sox sent Professional Hitter (TM) Harold Baines to the Rangers in a midseason trade. To commemorate his decade of service to the team, during which he hit 186 home runs and was a four-time All-Star, Chicago took the rare step of retiring his number while he was still an active player. Baines' career took him from Texas to Oakland to Baltimore, and back to the South Side of the Windy City in 1996. Rather than ask him to take a new number, the Pale Hose "unretired" his #3 just for him. The Sox traded him away once more the following season (back to the O's), but re-reacquired him in 2000 via another trade with Baltimore and once again reissued #3 to him. He retired as a White Sox player (as it should have been) the next year. His uniform number went back into mothballs...until 2004, when he joined ex-teammate Ozzie Guillen's coaching staff. Clear as mud, right?

Well, the Sox have done it again. Luis Aparicio was a Hall of Fame shortstop who was best known for his play with the White Sox (1956-1962, 1968-1970). "Little Looie" won nine Gold Gloves and nine straight American League stolen base crowns, and was a ten-time All-Star. He was the first real major league star to come from Venezuela, and generations of his countrymen have have followed in his footsteps at shortstop (Davey Concepcion, Guillen, Omar Vizquel, etc.). Naturally, Aparicio's #11 was retired by the ChiSox in 1984, just weeks after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Fast forward to the present, and Vizquel (who will celebrate his 43rd birthday in April!) has signed with the White Sox for the 2010 season, which will be his 22nd in the majors. Since debuting with the Mariners in 1989, he has worn the #13 that Concepcion made famous. The only problem is that his new manager Guillen has also worn that number since the 1980s and refused to cede it to the shortstop. So Omar met with Aparicio over the winter and asked the Hall of Famer (now 75 years old) if he could pay tribute to him and perhaps educate a new generation of fans by wearing #11. After giving it some thought, Luis agreed and the White Sox honored his wishes.

Just hashing all of that out makes me glad that the O's retire a select few numbers...and keep them retired.


White Sox Cards said...

The only non-White Sox baseball card in 2008 that I saw and immediately said to myself, "I am keeping this one!"

I'm a little confused as to why Omar would feel the need to educate today's youth about Luis Aparicio. I thought that's what the statue and the retired number was all about. That, and the fact that he's in multiple card releases per year. You're right. Clear as mud.

jacobmrley said...

I always preferred the Soccer (football) method of number honor. They don't retire numbered, per se, they use them to honor past great players with similar skills and/or positions. This kinda happens in baseball (speedy leadoff guys wear #1, sluggers wear #33 or #44) but I think only great great players should be retired. That Babe Ruth and Ron Guidry have the same honor on the Yankees is kinda silly when you think it through. #47 should be other great leftys (Andy Pettitte for instance, should have been #47) and #3 should be retired. There will be other good lefty pitchers but there will always be only one Babe Ruth. Also, it makes sense that Lou Gehrig or Roberto Clemenete's number is retired, as a tribute to tragic death. But players like Steve Garvey, Tony Oliva, Willie Horton, Mike Scott, even the aforementioned Harold Baines? They should be immortalized?

p.s. Tony Perez said he would give Griffey Jr. his blessing to wear #24 on the Reds, but Junior went with his dad's #30 instead. This is the only other instance I can think of like this...

Kevin said...

Steve - It's a great card alright. I like it because most of the "retro" cards of Luis have him with the White Sox. It's nice to get some variety - as much as I love Frank and Brooks and Palmer, the other O's stars of the past need some love!

Max - You may be on to something. I've always said that the O's do it right. As much as I might not mind if they retired Boog's #26 or Elrod Hendricks' #44, they reserve that honor for the longtime O's who are in Cooperstown. Anyone else can be content with their membership in the Orioles Hall of Fame.