Titletown 101: Pack only retired six uniform numbers

For Chief Tomahawk

“What’s in a name?”

William Shakespeare poses the question in his play Romeo and Juliet to make it clear that naming things is irrelevant. You could say it’s the same when it comes to athletes.

Oh sure, players’ surnames appear on the back of their shirts, sometimes accompanied by a first initial. But what so often catches fans’ attention first appears beneath the apparently ten times larger name is the players’ jersey number, which in the NFL also appears in three other places. Some players have gone so far as to use their jersey numbers as marketing tools. TB12 offers a full line of products inspired by quarterback Tom Brady. In most sports, a few numbers have taken on a life of their own. In NASCAR, No. 3 has become synonymous with Dale Earnhardt and his racing family. In baseball, no one wears the number 42 anymore, after MLB in 1997 universally retired it for all teams in honor of Jackie Robinson. The same honor was recently bestowed on Bill Russell’s No. 6 in the NBA. The number 99 on a hockey jersey will always mean Wayne Gretzky to most fans. Then there’s Michael Jordan’s number 23, arguably the most iconic sports number of all time, after winning six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s and creating a sports marketing empire, based in large part on the image of his silhouette. a basketball, and the number on the back of his jersey.

I’ve been thinking about jersey numbers while preparing for another season of Green Bay Packers football. Scrolling through the team’s 2022 media guide, I noticed the page that documents Green Bay’s six retired uniform numbers. Six?

“That can’t be true,” I thought. After all, it’s the team that has now placed 25 players, two head coaches and a general manager in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including four founding members in 1963.

Of those four, Don Hutson was the only Packer to have his jersey number retired, when the team officially retired their number 14 from circulation in 1951, making him the eighth and final player to wear the number. Although the exact date is not known, it is believed that Tony Canadeo’s No. 3 retired at some point in late 1952, at the end of his final season with the Packers, although the media guide of the team lists Kicker Ben Agajanian as having worn the number in 1961, the seventh and last player to do so. Two years after hanging up his boots for good and four years before joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame, quarterback Bart Starr became the 21st and final player to wear No. 15, after being retired by the team in November 1973 .

A decade later, No. 66 was retired in honor of longtime linebacker Ray Nitschke during the halftime ceremony of a December 1983 game against, fittingly, the Chicago Bears — even though two other players are listed as having worn the number in 1978 and 1980. Twenty-two years passed before another shirt number joined the others on the green facade of Lambeau Field’s north area. Nine months after his death, Reggie White’s number 92 was officially retired from circulation in the 2005 home opener against Cleveland – plans that were laid out by then Packers CEO Bob Harlan , a year earlier, three months before White’s sudden death in December 2004. The Hall of Fame defensive end was the sixth and final Packer to wear the number.

The last time the Packers retired a uniform number was in July 2015, coinciding with quarterback Brett Favre’s induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. Favre is perhaps the most iconic number 4 in all of sports history, though baseball historians might argue that the distinction belongs to Lou Gehrig, who wore the number for 14 seasons as a member of the Yankees. New York. Following the end of his 16-year stint under center at Green Bay, Favre was the fifth and final player to put on the No. 4 for green and gold.

Many of us could argue for retiring some of the other uniform numbers that Green Bay players have made famous over the years. Now, I understand that you can’t remove a jersey number for every Pro Bowl or standout player, or fan favorite. The team simply wouldn’t have enough to go around if that were the case. But there are a few numbers currently in use or not yet retired that could and probably should be. We’ll address that argument in an upcoming episode of Titletown 101, our new semi-regular feature exploring some of the history of our favorite Green Bay “frozen tundra” football team.

Continued next week.

Mike Warren and Thom Gerretsen, both of Marshfield, have seen Packers football across the United States. Both also covered the Pack for the defunct Goetz Broadcasting during the Super Bowl era of the 1990s.

Banners commemorating the six Packers whose uniform numbers were retired by the team hang in the atrium of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Photo by Thom Gerretsen.

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