How long will it be before representatives of the four major professional sports leagues, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League call for league meetings to discuss a common format for handling the retirement of player numbers? Over the years individual teams have retired the numbers of players who have had outstanding careers with their clubs. In baseball, in honor of Jackie Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s “color” barrier, MLB retired Robinson’s number 42 for all major league teams. With the recent announcement by NBA player Jason Collins of the the Washington Wizards that he is gay will we see special ceremonies being held in NBA cities to celebrate his courage and have the league retire his number to honor the breaking of the “gay” barrier? Will professional sports have to take a look at the situation and try to determine if they might be in danger of running out of numbers when the numbers of other great players are retired or other barriers are broken?
The New York Yankees have retired 16 numbers plus Jackie Robinson’s number 42. Will they be the first team to run out of numbers? Will we someday hear, “for New York, playing 2nd base and batting 4th, number 15A, Billy Turntwo?” Could be. So many players, so many barriers, so few numbers. How long before we learn that the barriers which have hurt transgendered football players or gay-curious hockey players or vegetarian, cross-dressing, bi-sexual baseball players have been broken? How long before the numbers of those pioneers are hanging from the rafters of arenas and stadiums across America and Canada?
“Now pitching for Pittsburgh, number 275, Mike Sinker.”