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Which ex-pros in Philly deserve to see their numbers retired | John Smallwood

Late Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh is among the players whose numbers should be retired.

A team can honor the greatness of a player in several ways, but the single most cherished honor is for the organization to retire the player's number.

That goes beyond simply saying that a player was great. It says that a player is special to a franchise, so special that no matter what other future players might achieve, they can only equal, never surpass, a past player's legacy of importance.

It's an arbitrary decision – one that is not necessarily defined by longevity, exclusivity or even championships.

On Sunday, the New York Yankees made an obvious decision to retire the No. 2 of long-time shortstop and team captain Derek Jeter.

Jeter spent his entire career in the Yankees organization until he retired after 23 years of professional baseball, including 20 seasons in the major leagues.

He won five World Series, was a 14-time All-Star, and is a sure first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.

Among the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and Sixers, 29 players have had their numbers retired.

As of now, there are no complete packages like Jeter, so let's take a look at which former Philadelphia players are most deserving of having their numbers retired.


Quarterback Donovan McNabb (5) and safety Brian Dawkins (20) recently had their numbers retired, so it might be a while before the Birds pick another.

The No. 36 of running back Brian Westbrook, who amassed close to 10,000 rushing and receiving yards in eight seasons?

No Eagle has worn No. 12 since quarterback Randall Cunningham, but it is not officially retired.

Still, I go to the player I personally consider the most underappreciated Eagle of all time. Wide receiver Harold Carmichael wore No. 17 for 11 seasons in Philadelphia. He is the franchise leader in receptions (589), receiving yards (8,978) and receiving touchdowns (79) and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Nelson Agholor recently announced he would switch from No. 17 to 13 so that free-agent receiver Alshon Jeffrey can have No. 17.

That shouldn't have been possible.


If Eric Lindros had not had such a contentious relationship with ownership, his No. 88 would be obvious despite unfulfilled expectations.

If captain Claude Giroux can ever bring a Stanley Cup back to South Philadelphia, his No. 28 will immediately get on the consideration list.

Still, I can't figure out why No. 31 is not the sixth to be hanging from the rafters.

No Flyer has worn it in the more than three decades since goaltender Pelle Lindbergh died tragically of injuries suffered in a car crash but it has never been officially retired.

Perhaps it's because Lindbergh's death and the circumstances of it are such a dark moment in team history. The Flyers, however, have awarded the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy to the most improved player as voted by teammates since the 1993-94 season.

Defenseman Barry Ashbee played only four seasons for the Flyers before an injury ended his career. His No. 4 was retired after he died of leukemia in 1977.

Everything about Lindbergh and the reverence in which he still is held by the Flyers nation says his number should be retired.


In more than 130 seasons of Major League Baseball, three Phillies – Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins – have won both a World Series and a National League MVP award for the franchise.

Schmidt's No. 20 is retired. Howard's No. 6 likely will not be.

Rollins is the Phillies' all-time leader with 2,306 hits and 479 doubles.

All time among MLB shortstops, Rollins ranks 14th in hits, 10th in runs, seventh in doubles, 12th in triples, ninth in home runs, 23rd in RBI, 11th in stolen bases, and fourth in total bases.

Among shortstops who played at least 10 seasons, Rollins is second to Omar Vizquel in fielding percentage.

It's 50/50 as to whether Rollins will make the Hall of Fame, but his No. 11 should be retired by the Phillies.


The No. 3 of Allen Iverson was the last number retired by the Sixers, in 2014.  There is no current waiting list to become the 10th number taken out of use.

But if Wilt Chamberlain, who played four seasons for the Sixers and won a title, has his No. 13 retired, I'm not sure why Moses Malone, who played five seasons with the Sixers (including four straight from 1982-86) and led them to a title, doesn't have his No. 2 retired.

Looking way, way into the future, the only potential candidates look like the No. 21 of Joel Embiid, the No. 25 of Ben Simmons, or the No. 9 of Dario Saric.