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July 07, 2022

What Philly sports jersey numbers should be retired?

Eagles NFL
Nick-Foles-Super-Bowl02042018 David Clements/Sipa USA

Nick Foles slinging a touchdown.

In late June, the Phillies handed out uniform No. 35 to Oscar Mercado, a 27-year-old outfielder. He played just one game in red pinstripes, striking out in his lone at-bat, before being designated for assignment. 

Mercado would've been another forgettable, Moonlight Graham-esque cup of coffee player that comes through the Major Leagues every season if not for the jersey number he was given. That number belongs to Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP. I was enraged that the team handed it out, writing that Hamels' success in Philly should've clearly had his No. 35 taken out of circulation and eventually retired.

That got the PhillyVoice sports staff thinking of other athletes throughout the city's past who should have their number retired by their respective teams. Our writers lay out cases for players here:

Eagles

Nick Foles, QB, No. 9

Shamus Clancy: Jeffrey Lurie should sell the team if they don't retire Foles' number. As the entire Delaware Valley knows, the Eagles have won just one Super Bowl in franchise history and Foles was the MVP of that game. It should be an easy call and it infuriates me that people could ever consider otherwise. 

Nick Tricome: Foles doesn't have a Hall of Fame resume and statistically, he doesn't hold up as one of the Eagles' very best. But my argument here is his story is so incredible that it kind of cancels it all out. From that 27-2 run in 2013 to being on the cusp of quitting football altogether until rejoining the Eagles, then getting thrown into an impossible situation and pulling off the impossible — capped off by arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history — it's all the stuff of legends and I think it should all be recognized this way once Foles does call it a career. Philly loves its underdogs, and in a lot of ways, he was the ultimate one. 

Plus, Bud Light made a statue that's still out front of the stadium, so I don't think retiring No. 9 is really all that far-fetched. 

Evan Macy: This one is a no brainer. Nothing to add except he is awesome and his number should never be worn again.

Randall Cunningham, QB, No, 12

Shamus: Randall is the coolest player in Eagles history and deserves it.

Nick: There's a big 'what if?' with how great Cunnigham truly could've been had the ACL tear not happened, but even with that, he's still one of the Eagles' greatest quarterbacks and completely changed how football approaches the position. His number is out of circulation, so no one has worn 12 since, but look, I see Kelly green No.12 jerseys out on Sundays all the time. He's a key piece to the history of the franchise and the NFL in general. There's a case to pay him this honor.

Evan: This is a borderline call but he was the second best quarterback in team history, according to us, so I would have no objections if he was honored for it.

Tommy McDonald, RB, No. 25

Shamus: I'm not a LeSean McCoy guy, but it's probably hard to retire an old player's number when there's been a newer guy who's way more famous to this fan base and had a ton of success in his own right.

Nick: Tommy McDonald was a crucial piece to the 1960 championship team, was one of the best receivers of his time, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and had an entire play written about him by one of the city's greatest sportswriters. His No. 25 never being retired will never stop feeling like a massive miss to me, up there with 17 never being retired, which speaking of...

Harold Carmichael, WR, No 17

Nick: Hall of Fame receiver, one of the best in Eagles history. 17 is still handed out. WHY?

Evan: Him being in the Hall-of-Fame but not retired by the Eagles is peculiar.

Malcolm Jenkins, S, No. 27

Shamus: They've already handed out Jenkins' number to 2021 fourth-round rookie Zech McPhearson, which was a bit too soon for me. Jenkins is a Super Bowl hero, but I slightly, slightly lean no here. The number won't be retired at this rate. I wouldn't be upset or think it's completely off base if they did though. 

Nick: You can say this of every player on that team, but without question, that Super Bowl run doesn't happen without Malcolm Jenkins in the defensive backfield. I'll concede that his case would be a fringe argument, but if he's not there from 2014 on to help set the defense's identity after the move away from Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson's ship probably doesn't stay afloat, "next man up" maybe doesn't take as powerful of a hold over the team as it does, and the team as a whole might not have been resilient enough to find a way in the couple years post-Super Bowl in spite of glaring weaknesses. Jenkins was a great player, but the leadership he brought the team, at that position, was just as crucial. Maybe second only to Brian Dawkins. 

Jason Kelce, C, No. 62

Shamus: No brainer.

Nick: Team's best center ever. Undoubted future Hall of Famer. Championship parade all-timer. 62 is no one else's but his. 

Jason Peters, LT, No. 71

Shamus: He's a first ballot Hall of Famer who spent the vasty majority of his career in midnight green. I expect his number to be retired at some point following his enshrinement in Canton. 

Nick: Yeah, 71 is no one else's but his. I think Peters' only mistake was that he stuck around just a bit too long. 

Flyers

Mark Recchi, RW, No. 8

Nick: Through two stints with the Flyers, the Hall of Famer's 10 years in Philadelphia were the most spent at any stop in his career — just, unfortunately, one of the few where he didn't win a Stanley Cup — and he always produced. He scored 232 goals, 395 assists for the sixth-most in the franchise, and 627 points, which is ninth-most all time. And he did it all through key phases in Flyers history, when Eric Lindros was the rising star, then the star on his way out, and then as Simon Gagne's era was beginning to take hold. The only hang-up I guess right now is that he works for the Devils and the Penguins before that. 

John LeClair, LW, No. 10

Nick: LeClair and Eric Desjardins (more on him in a sec) came over in that trade from Montreal, which sent Recchi to the Habs, and both became major faces of the Flyers through the 90s and early 2000s. Lindros was the big-time star, but you couldn't talk about him without talking about his linemate, who put up three straight 50-goal seasons and then two 40-plus goal ones following that. He's a big part of Flyers history, a big part of American hockey history too, and someone I think has always needed more recognition. 

Claude Giroux, C, No. 28

Nick: The longest-tenured captain and his name all over the club's record books. Claude Giroux is one of the best Flyers ever, maybe even the best straight-up, he just arrived at the wrong time. When he does hang it up, I'm fairly certain 28 will be up in the Wells Fargo Center rafter soon after. 

Eric Desjardins, D, No. 37

Nick: Also coming in from what became a huge trade with Montreal, Desjardins wasn't of the NHL's highest-profile defensemen, but he was the Flyers' best blueliner for the better part of a decade all the way up through the mid-2000s. I dare you to find a player more synonymous with the No. 37. 

Phillies

Bryce Harper, RF, No. 3

Shamus: He's not a lock just yet, but he'll likely end up in Cooperstown one day and if his current pace with the Phils is kept up, I can see it happening.

Evan: Harper has become a fan favorite much in the same way that Chase Utley and company have, and as long as he loved being here Phillies fans will love having him. 

Ryan Howard, 1B, No 6

Shamus: The core four of Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley who were homegrown talents and the integral parts of the most successful period in team history are all more than deserving.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, No. 11

Shamus: Yes.

Chase Utley, 2B, No, 26

Shamus: Yes.

Evan: For Howard, Rollins and Utley it's simply a matter of when, not if. 

Cole Hamels, SP, No. 35

Shamus: Read my full rant.

Nick: I'll just sum up all of them right here. These are the core four to the most successful era in the history of the franchise, which has never been all that successful. 6, 11, and 26 are never going to be worn again, and 35 really shouldn't be either. 

Evan: Cole Hamels is my favorite All-Time Phillies, dating back to when I found him as a prospect in MVP Baseball 05 and properly named him. He may not have Hall-of-Fame numbers but he's sort of the Phillies' version of Nick Foles (though perhaps a little more consistent) — a championship hero that is unique in value to the city.

Sixers

Joel Embiid, C, No. 21

Shamus: The Sixers have retired everyone's number that is deserving at this point. I'm fairly confident Embiid will join the likes of great Sixers big men Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone up in the rafters one day. 

Evan: I would agree — it's hard for me to think of a scenario where he doesn't sent No. 21 into the rafters amid deafening screams from onlooking fans.


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