Retired Numbers and The Yankees

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You may have heard … it looks like the New York Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s number. That is absolutely the right thing to do — heck Billy Martin’s number is retired — and it brings us just a little big closer to one of the cooler number things in sports: Very soon the first 10 numbers will be retired by the New York Yankees.

In case you have forgotten the list:

No. 1: Billy Martin. Number was retired in 1986 more out of emotion, I think, than anything else. Ralph Houk won a World Series as manager and his number isn’t retired. But it’s also true that no player or manager ever wore the Yankees pinstripes more proudly. Martin was a Yankees World Series hero as a player, and he led the Yankees to a pennant and a World Series championship as a manager, in addition to being fired 800 million times.

No. 2: Derek Jeter. Will be retired 12 minutes after he retires.

No. 3: Babe Ruth. Baseball’s all-time No. 3 hitter. Baseball’s all-time everything, really. Retired June, 13, 1948. The famous picture of Babe Ruth leaning on his bat comes from that day. You probably know this, but Ruth gave the bat to Bob Feller, and it is on display at the Bob Feller Museum in Iowa.

No. 4: Lou Gehrig. Retired July 4, 1939, the day he announced that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

No. 5: Joe DiMaggio. Retired April 18, 1952. I really think they should have retired it in 1956.

No. 6: Here’s Joe Torre’s number, squeezed beautifully between DiMag and the Mick. It’s almost as if they KNEW he would become an all-time great manager and have his number retired.

No. 7: George Costanza’s future child. And Mickey Mantle. Retired June 8, 1969.

No. 8: Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. This was an interesting one. The Yankees did not retire Dickey’s number when he retired in 1946. Instead, two years later, they gave it to a young catcher named Yogi (up to that point, Berra had worn No. 38 and No. 35). So, two of the greatest catchers in baseball history wore No. 8 for the Yankees. In 1972, the Yankees decided to retire the number for Yogi, but they couldn’t leave out Dickey. So they retired the number in both names.

No. 9: Roger Maris. He was sick and would die eighteen months after having his number retired in 1984. But he was at the stadium on Old Timer’s Day wearing No. 9.

No. 10: Phil Rizzuto in 1985. Scooter, as a player, announcer and icon you could argue convincingly that Rizzuto and Yogi are the two most beloved figures in Yankees history.

The Yankees actually have retired eight more numbers: No. 15 (Thurman Munson); No. 16 (Whitey Ford); No. 23 (Donnie Baseball); No. 32 (Elston Howard); No. 37 (Casey Stengel); No. 42 (The Great Rivera); No. 44 (The Straw That Stirred the Drink) and No. 49 (Ron Guidry).

But it is filling up those first 10 numbers that is really cool. There’s really nothing else quite like that in sports.

Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.