Ichiro in pinstripes…even an overnight after it became a reality, it’s a statement that still probably makes many Yankees fans giddy.
When we got word of the trade last night, the YESNetwork.com team was abuzz, with text messages flowing and a conference call on how to properly address the situation – which, as you likely have seen by now, included great analyses of the deal by both Jack Curry and Joe Auriemma, photos and videos of Ichiro’s first day as a Bomber, and a piece by Jon Lane on Brian Cashman’s stealth success.
We are, of course, all baseball enthusiasts (to put it lightly), so after a few ideas were thrown out and a handful of “man, Cashman did it again!” sentiments were exchanged, one of us asked the million dollar question: What number is Ichiro going to wear?
Even in Yankees lore, it was a valid question. After all, Ichiro has been synonymous with No. 51, the jersey he has worn since coming to Seattle in 2001…but in the Bronx, that number is synonymous with another former batting champion outfielder.
One can’t help but remember the fans’ furor in 2008 when LaTroy Hawkins came to the Yankees and was issued No. 21, which had been out of circulation since Paul O’Neill retired. Hawkins didn’t understand the vitriol at first, but switched his number as soon as he was fully aware of why fans found No. 21 sacred.
That said, while O’Neill and Bernie Williams are both in the same pantheon of beloved Yankees of the “’90s Dynasty” era…well, with all due respect to Mr. Hawkins and his great credentials, there’s a big difference between LaTroy and Ichiro.
Mr. Suzuki is, as Joe Auriemma posited in his piece, one of the few people on the planet who can get away with going by one name. Only six active Major Leaguers have more MLB hits than Ichiro, and if you add the 1,278 he amassed in Japan, he has a career total of 3,812 – a number that only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose have surpassed in MLB history.
He is the MLB record holder for hits in a single season, has 17 All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves between the U.S. and Japan, and was both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the same season – the season he became the first Japanese position player to break into the Majors.
Ichiro is, in a few words, a surefire Hall of Famer (and possibly a first-ballot one)…which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily something you can say about Bernie.
Sure, when it comes to love, numbers don’t always matter, and like No. 21, No. 51 has been out of circulation since Bernie last stepped off the field for the last time in October 2006.
It remains that way, as Ichiro wore No. 31 in his debut for the Bombers, so all we can do is wonder what the reaction might have been if he took his spot in right field donning No. 51 on Monday night.
What do you think? Would you have been upset had Ichiro worn No. 51? Click on the poll link below to voice your opinion.