Retired Uniform Numbers
of Catchers

Uniform numbers were first worn by the New York Yankees in the 1929 season to assist the fans in identifying which players were on the field. [See history of numbers below.] The following are the numbers by organization of catchers whose numbers have been retired.

Team Player Num Date Retired
Boston Red Sox Carlton Fisk 27 9/14/1997
Brooklyn (Los Angeles) Dodgers Roy Campanella 39 6/4/1972
Chicago White Sox Carlton Fisk 72 9/14/1997
Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench 5 1984
Montreal Expos Gary Carter 8 7/31/1993
New York Yankees Bill Dickey 8 1972
New York Yankees Yogi Berra 8 1972
New York Yankees Thurman Munson 15 1979
New York Yankees Elston Howard 32 1984
Texas Rangers Johnny Oates 26 2005

It is one of Baseball's most familiar sayings: "You can't tell the players without a scorecard." And you can't tell the players without numbers. Yet, numbers have not always been a part of a player's uniform. In fact, they were not used during the 19th century or during the first 15 years of the 20th century. That finally changed in 1916, when the Cleveland Indians attached small numbers to the sleeves of their uniforms as a way of identifying the players. Mysteriously, the numbers soon disappeared-without explanation.

On Jan. 22, 1929, the New York Yankees decided to reintroduce the Indians' pioneering uniform feature, but with a twist. Instead of placing small numbers on their sleeves, the Yankees attached numbers to the backs of their jerseys. The Yankees' first set of numbers, larger and bolder than the Indians' numbers of 1916, corresponded to each player's general position in the lineup. In other words, Babe Ruth wore No. 3, since he usually batted third, and Lou Gehrig wore No. 4 as the team's regular cleanup hitter.

Visible from long distances, the numbers made it easier for fans to distinguish players from their stadium seats - and easier for play-by-play radio announcers to identify players during their broadcasts.

Unlike previous experiments with numbers, the Yankees' innovation caught on with other teams. By 1932, every one of the 16 major league teams featured numbers on the backs of their jerseys. In fact, numbers have become such an integral part of the uniform that some of the game's greatest stars are almost as well known by their numbers as they are by their own names.

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