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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Wood: Should Nationals retire a number for Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson?

Long Live Walter Johnson!

image

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s wrong with you? Surely you know that Johnson never wore a number as a player.“True. But he did wear a number - in fact two numbers - as a manager, 23 and 25. One of those would do the trick.

I’ve heard some fans insist that the Twins should be the team to retire his number, since the Minnesota franchise is the original Washington American League ballclub. Johnson, though, never played for the Twins; I’m not altogether certain he ever set foot in the state.

...The day will eventually come when a Nationals’ star has his uniform number retired by the club and hung prominently inside the park. The franchise re-issued the numbers that had been retired in Montreal, since those players had no connection - no games played - in Washington. Why wait 15-20 years to honor an individual from the 21st century when there are a few 20th century stalwarts deserving of recognition?

Repoz Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:32 AM | 51 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, memorabilia, nationals, twins

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 04, 2011 at 11:58 AM (#3892460)
Johnson, though, never played for the Twins

You know who else he didn't play for? The Nationals.
   2. whoisalhedges Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:03 PM (#3892463)
The franchise re-issued the numbers that had been retired in Montreal, since those players had no connection - no games played - in Washington.

This is the real problem, and yet another instance of Selig's MLB pissing on the game's history.
   3. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:06 PM (#3892464)
I don't know if they need to retire his number, but they could do what the Giants did with the greats who played in New York and just give a tribute to them somewhere. They could do it for other players who played in Washington, too, like Goose Goslin and even Josh Gibson or others who played with the Grays. It's not a bad thing to tie the current team to D.C.'s baseball heritage.
   4. flournoy Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:13 PM (#3892468)
The Nationals did finally re-retire/recognize the Expos number this year or last. So they got it wrong at first, but at least they fixed it.
   5. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:22 PM (#3892471)
Even Fred Wilpon was smart enough not to retire Roy Campanella's number.
   6. OsunaSakata Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:34 PM (#3892474)
According to baseball-reference.com, Brian Bixler wore Andre Dawson's #10 earlier this year. There is already a section behind home plate honoring Expos, Senators and Grays Hall-of-Famers by name and team, but not by number.
   7. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 04, 2011 at 12:53 PM (#3892479)
There is already a section behind home plate honoring Expos, Senators and Grays Hall-of-Famers by name and team, but not by number.

There ya go. Good job by the Nats. Which Grays do they have?
   8. Chris Needham Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:14 PM (#3892499)
Beyond the Ring of Honor -- or whatever they call it -- they have statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson, and Frank Howard that are hideously ugly.

And, of course, I don't know how you take a pitcher, batter and catcher, and not have them in a scene together, but, hey, they did something half right.
   9. AROM Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:21 PM (#3892504)
Beyond the Ring of Honor -- or whatever they call it -- they have statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson, and Frank Howard that are hideously ugly.


The concept is to have a statue that shows the player in action - swinging the bat, throwing a pitch, etc. I agree that the result is not aesthetically pleasing.

My vote is you go by the city in cases like this. Walter Johnson is part of Washington's baseball history, so honor him with the current Nationals team. But leave Raines, Carter & Dawson out of it - they never played here.
   10. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:22 PM (#3892505)
Beyond the Ring of Honor -- or whatever they call it -- they have statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson, and Frank Howard that are hideously ugly.
This point cannot be emphasized enough, those statues are truly, truly awful.
   11. OsunaSakata Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:27 PM (#3892511)
   12. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:31 PM (#3892515)
Ray Brown! Good to see him remembered. That's actually a good selection of the Grays.
   13. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:32 PM (#3892516)
But leave Raines, Carter & Dawson out of it - they never played here.

I don't have a problem with it. There isn't much about the Expos legacy that's worth celebrating, but there is a little. There's a genuine connection there, and these guys deserve to be recognized.
   14. AROM Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:38 PM (#3892522)
I agree they deserve to be recognized. In Montreal.
   15. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:46 PM (#3892527)
Tim Raines was so good I'd be ok with them retiring his jersey in Oakland, even if we did get one of the lupus years.
   16. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:50 PM (#3892531)
If Rob Carpenter has his way, the Nats eventually will retire Lance Nix's number.
   17. Mike Webber Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:50 PM (#3892532)
Beyond the Ring of Honor -- or whatever they call it -- they have statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson, and Frank Howard that are hideously ugly.

This point cannot be emphasized enough, those statues are truly, truly awful.


I felt the same way when seeing them in pictures, but when I saw them at the park, I thought they were much better. Maybe still not good, but the movement comes through in person in a way that I didn't get in the pictures.

Johnson Statue Pics - various angles.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:52 PM (#3892533)
It's not a bad thing to tie the current team to D.C.'s baseball heritage.


It's only bad if the Mets try it.
   19. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 04, 2011 at 01:59 PM (#3892542)
It's only bad if the Mets try it.

I think the beef there with Mets fans is that the Wilpons forgot that the Mets themselves are part of New York's baseball heritage.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: August 04, 2011 at 02:08 PM (#3892548)
I think the beef there with Mets fans is that the Wilpons forgot that the Mets themselves are part of New York's baseball heritage.


Separate beefs. When it was argued that the Mets had a claim to Jackie's New York legacy, the overriding opinion here was that they had no claim whatsoever. Fewer people seem to have an objection to franchises like the Nationals honoring the history of Washington baseball in some way.

I think Wilpon deserves scorn for (as I understand it) overplaying the Dodger history while downplaying the actual franchise that plays there and the other NL team from New York in the construction of CitiField. But I absolutely believe there's nothing wrong with the current NY baseball franchise in the National League honoring the history of NL baseball in New York in the new park.
   21. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 02:22 PM (#3892563)
If ob Carpenter has his way, the Nats eventually will retire Lance Nix's number.


From the looks of it, we won't have him to kick around much longer.
   22. zack Posted: August 04, 2011 at 02:56 PM (#3892598)
I'm almost positive that the Big Train didn't have a uniform number until he was a manager. What are you going to retire, a blank jersey?

Edit: aaaaand I should read the article. Doy.
   23. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 04, 2011 at 03:11 PM (#3892620)
well, they had that blank jersey on the wall at the stick, if memory serves.
   24. Millon deFloss Posted: August 04, 2011 at 03:17 PM (#3892628)
I'm on the record as being against retiring numbers, period. Honoring numbers, as some college teams do, that's fine. Hey, if you think you have the stuff to wear 3 for the Yankees, go right ahead.
   25. fra paolo Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:08 PM (#3892672)
Isn't it the case that Milwaukee, Washington, Seattle and Kansas City have this problem about the new franchise having to deal with a previous baseball tradition? Do the Brewers use Hank Aaron's old number?
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:23 PM (#3892682)
Do the Brewers use Hank Aaron's old number?


No it's retired, but Hank did finish his career as a Brewer, so they do have an out there, even if the overwhelming part of his production was as a Brave.
   27. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:27 PM (#3892684)
Isn't it the case that Milwaukee, Washington, Seattle and Kansas City have this problem

Seattle? More from the Rainiers, I'd think. And the NYY retired the numbers of all the KCAs that deserved it. :)
   28. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:30 PM (#3892689)
Walter Johnson is under-honored in Washington, DC, but I don't believe the solution is to retire a number that isn't associated with him to any significant degree. Throw another bridge over the Potomac and name it for Johnson.
   29. Greg K Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3892690)
From the looks of it, we won't have him to kick around much longer.

I recall reading a deadline blog post that argued Laynce Nix had more trade value than BJ Upton. On the rare times I step outside the bubble of BTF I'm reminded of why I cling to this place so tightly.
   30. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:35 PM (#3892693)
Walter Johnson is under-honored in Washington, DC, but I don't believe the solution is to retire a number that isn't associated with him to any significant degree. Throw another bridge over the Potomac and name it for Johnson.

or better yet: re-rename National Airport
   31. Millon deFloss Posted: August 04, 2011 at 04:54 PM (#3892708)
What 30 said.

Walter Johnson does have a high school in the area named for him as well.
   32. GuyMcGuffin Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3892720)
A local team from a collegiate league was also named "Bethesda Big Train". I think there's probably an appropriate amount of stuff named for him considering he was an athlete who peaked about 100 years ago.

If you retire Walter Johnson's number, don't you kind of have to retire Sam Rice, Goose Goslin? They're both HOFs who won a WS and 3 pennants with Washington. Sure they don't have a claim to be an elite inner circle guy, but who sets their standards that high?
   33. jingoist Posted: August 04, 2011 at 05:52 PM (#3892770)
I do believe the consensus, at least here, is the Walter Johnson was the greatest RHP of all time.
A statue was created and that was appropriate.
Whether or not the Lerners see fit to honor the old Senators from 80 to 100 years ago is a matter of taste I'd suggest.
If you hung a portrait of Goose Goslin or Sam Rice in a conspicuous place, 99% of the fans who walked by would say "who's that"?
   34. OsunaSakata Posted: August 04, 2011 at 06:11 PM (#3892788)
There is also a street named for him in Germantown. This is the intersection of Walter Johnson Road and Wisteria Drive, that peculiar world where Washington Senators baseball and Desperate Housewives meet.
   35. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:21 PM (#3892849)
The Howard statue is a monstrosity, but nothing compares to the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley where it looks like he is standing atop a mound of writhing souls trapped in hell.
   36. cardsfanboy Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:48 PM (#3892882)
This is the real problem, and yet another instance of Selig's MLB pissing on the game's history.


Yep, Selig is the first commisioner in baseball history to see a franchise move cities and forget it's past. I mean the Twins kept track of all their great players and retired numbers for them or the Orioles have some type of honor for Sisler...right?... Bud is the first guy to ever do this type of stuff.

edit: don't get me wrong, what Bud and Loria did to the Expos was criminal, but to act like his influence is why the past of Expos is being forgotten by the Nationals is something that is unique to his involvement goes counter to already established prior similar situations. In fact the nationals seem more inclined to honor their previous city than other teams who have moved(it helps those other teams to not have had uniform numbers for their great players though)
   37. WillYoung Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:52 PM (#3892885)
Walter Johnson is under-honored in Washington, DC, but I don't believe the solution is to retire a number that isn't associated with him to any significant degree. Throw another bridge over the Potomac and name it for Johnson.


Ironically, I was in Bethesda last weekend for the funeral of my wife's grandfather. As we were driving around running errands before they started to sit shiva, we passed by Walter Johnson HS and my father-in-law asked me who he was.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: August 04, 2011 at 07:56 PM (#3892892)
The Howard statue is a monstrosity, but nothing compares to the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley where it looks like he is standing atop a mound of writhing souls trapped in hell.


Have you seen the Stan Musial statue in St Louis? (it has artistic license and when the artist explains it, it's not so bad, but even Stan Musial bad mouths that thing)
   39. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:26 PM (#3892917)
Sure they don't have a claim to be an elite inner circle guy, but who sets their standards that high?


The White Sox have retired Harold Baines number. They even did it while he was active for crissakes, IIRC, not too long after they traded him to the Rangers.
   40. TerpNats Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:48 PM (#3892941)
This is the intersection of Walter Johnson Road and Wisteria Drive, that peculiar world where Washington Senators baseball and Desperate Housewives meet.
Bree Van de Kamp was always fond of Frank Howard and Dick Bosman...
   41. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:53 PM (#3892944)
The Howard statue is a monstrosity, but nothing compares to the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley where it looks like he is standing atop a mound of writhing souls trapped in hell.
This is true. That thing is geniunely scary.
   42. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 08:56 PM (#3892948)
even if the overwhelming part of his production was as a Brave.


Of course most of Aaron's home runs were hit while he was playing for Milwaukee (Braves).
   43. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:02 PM (#3892954)
Has baseball ever done anything like the NFL when the expansion Browns were given to rights to all of the (Ravens--formerly Original Browns) franchise history?
   44. bads85 Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:07 PM (#3892958)
but nothing compares to the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley where it looks like he is standing atop a mound of writhing souls trapped in hell.


Well, it is appropriate.
   45. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:27 PM (#3892966)
even if the overwhelming part of his production was as a Brave.
Of course most of Aaron's home runs were hit while he was playing for Milwaukee (Braves).


I'm guessing it is a 430-325 HR split in favor of a Milwaukee uniform.
   46. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:33 PM (#3892970)
we passed by Walter Johnson HS and my father-in-law asked me who he was.

You punched him in the mouth, yeah?
   47. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:39 PM (#3892975)
When it was argued that the Mets had a claim to Jackie's New York legacy, the overriding opinion here was that they had no claim whatsoever.


And that overriding opinion was idiotic. Some people ended up being so utterly ridiculous that they argued it was OK to honor Jackie Robinson's legacy at a museum in New York, but not at the stadium where National League baseball is played in New York.

I'll repeat: idiotic.
   48. TerpNats Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3892981)
And that overriding opinion was idiotic. Some people ended up being so utterly ridiculous that they argued it was OK to honor Jackie Robinson's legacy at a museum in New York, but not at the stadium where National League baseball is played in New York.
The problem wasn't so much over honoring Jackie Robinson's legacy, but that the legacies of Willie Mays (who played close to seven combined seasons in New York) and Christy Mathewson (admittedly different types of legacies, but legacies just the same) weren't. (Neither, for that matter, was that of Tom Seaver, who actually played for the franchise that plays in that ballpark.) And many people rightly feel that the owner's Brooklyn obsession has a lot to do with it.
   49. Sam M. Posted: August 04, 2011 at 09:56 PM (#3892987)
The problem wasn't so much over honoring Jackie Robinson's legacy, but that the legacies of Willie Mays (who played close to seven combined seasons in New York) and Christy Mathewson (admittedly different types of legacies, but legacies just the same) weren't.


Well, that's a whole separate issue -- the argument that if the concept at Citifield was to make it a celebration of the history of NL baseball in New York, there was a whole hell of a lot left out. And I agree with that point completely. But that wasn't the main focus of that thread; most people objected, simply and straightforwardly, to the notion that the Mets had any basis or claim or connection to the legacy of Jackie Robinson, on the ground that they are the National League team in New York and carry on that very long tradition. In my view, it does not usurp or change or challenge the Dodgers' obvious connection to acknowledge where the events of his career took place, and honor them in New York, in addition to the Dodgers doing it because he played for the Dodgers. It's not either/or, and since it's not, the Mets are the logical and appropriate agent/team/entity to handle the honoring in New York.

Just as it makes perfect sense for the Nats to honor Walter Johnson in the only place he played -- Washington D.C.
   50. Chris Fluit Posted: August 04, 2011 at 10:16 PM (#3892995)
Beyond the Ring of Honor -- or whatever they call it -- they have statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson, and Frank Howard that are hideously ugly.


Perfect. The Nationals honor significant players from all three former franchises. I have no idea why someone would feel the need to invent a campaign to retire the number for a player who didn't actually wear one as if he wasn't already sufficiently honored by a statue.
   51. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: August 05, 2011 at 11:46 AM (#3893254)
re-rename National Airport

Naah. The idea that the airport is named for the man who fired the air traffic controllers is too delicious of an irony to get rid of.

the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley where it looks like he is standing atop a mound of writhing souls trapped in hell.

They're Cubs fans, ferchrissake!

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