Logan Morrison of the Florida Marlins celebrates his two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Logan Morrison wants to honor his dad with a uniform number change. The problem is, the Marlins retired that number almost two decades ago.
This week, it's due to his request to change his uniform number from 20 to 5; the request was made, supposedly, to honor Morrison's father, who died in December 2010. The elder Morrison, according to reports, "idolized" Hall of Famer George Brett, who wore No. 5 for the Kansas City Royals.
This would be a great story, except for one thing. The Marlins retired No. 5 at the franchise's very first game to honor team president Carl Barger. And Barger's family isn't happy:
The Florida Marlins retired the No. 5 before the franchise's first game on April 5, 1993, to honor Barger, who had died of a ruptured aorta at baseball's winter meetings four months earlier. Barger was a huge fan of Joe DiMaggio, who wore that number.
"No other Florida Marlin will ever wear No. 5,' then-owner Wayne Huizenga said during a ceremony before that first game.
But now that the team has renamed itself the Miami Marlins as it prepares to move into a new ballpark, the organization decided it was time to grant Morrison's request to honor his dad.
Well. There have been quite a few numbers that have been retired by teams that have moved, or even moved and changed nicknames, and none of those teams have unretired numbers. For example, the Washington Nationals continue to honor several numbers retired by their former incarnation, the Montreal Expos (Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub and ), even though the team neither plays in the same city nor has the same nickname.
So the Marlins move 14 miles down I-95 and it's OK to unretire numbers? Sure, Huizenga said "Florida Marlin" and now the team is called "Miami Marlins", but clearly, it's the same franchise.
Something similar happened in 2010 when Omar Vizquel joined the White Sox. Vizquel had always worn No. 13, but that number had been taken on the Chisox by manager Ozzie Guillen. So Vizquel came up with an idea: Honor his countryman Luis Aparicio by wearing the Hall of Famer's No. 11.
Problem: the White Sox had retired Aparicio's number when he entered the Hall in 1984.
So Omar got in touch with Aparicio and the Hall of Fame shortstop said it was OK with him:
Vizquel contacted Aparicio to see if he would be amenable, according to a White Sox spokesman, who added that the number would go back to being retired whenever Vizquel, who turns 43 in April, leaves the organization.
"If there is one player who I would like to see wear my uniform with the White Sox, it is Omar Vizquel," Aparicio said Monday in a statement. "I have known Omar for a long time. Along with being an outstanding player, he is a good and decent man."
Well, that's great, except what would you have expected Aparicio to say once asked? "No, my number is retired and that's that?" Of course, the Hall of Famer was gracious and agreed. The question should never have been asked. The point of retiring a player's number is so no one will wear it again, to honor a man who has meant something beyond the ordinary to a franchise (or, in the case of men like Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan and Casey Stengel, to more than one team). Vizquel did wind up wearing No. 11 for his two years with the White Sox; he has now moved on to Toronto, where he'll wear No. 17; No. 11 was previously claimed by Rajai Davis and No. 13 by Brett Lawrie. Lawrie is expected to be a star for the Blue Jays, but Rajai Davis is no Luis Aparicio.
The Marlins need to reconsider; they've insulted, whether intentionally or not, the family of a man who helped create their franchise.
"Nobody has contacted us,' Betzi Barger told The Palm Beach Post on Monday. "It's just a disappointment but there's nothing we can do. We're sorry we didn't find out about it except from you.'
The Marlins plan to honor Barger at their new ballpark with a plaque. The team wants to invite the Barger family to attend, but Betzi Barger isn't sure if they will.
A plaque? Probably out of the way, stuck behind this monstrosity, where no one will see it. I don't blame the Barger family for being upset. The Marlins finally did reach out to the Barger family, but the decision wasn't changed. I'm sure Logan Morrison had the best of intentions, but just as in the Vizquel case, the question should never have been asked.
Retired numbers should stay retired. That's kind of the point.