With the Upcoming Retirement of Uniform Number 2, Let’s Not Forget Tony Lazzeri

With the NY Yankees announcement of yet another number about to be retired, this one is richly deserved. Derek Jeter’s No. 2 will be put out of circulation on Mother’s Day of 2017. That will be the twenty first number retired by this storied franchise for the twenty-two legends who donned them. How is this possible? The number 8 was retired in 1972 for Hall of Famer Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Why was the number 8 even available for Berra to wear after legendary catcher Dicky retired is as mind boggling as to why was the No. 2 was available throughout the years, before Jeter left his mark on it?

The first person to wear the No. 2 was second baseman Tony Lazzeri, who was given the number in 1929, the first year that numbers were issued, because of his place in the batting order. The number two batter in the lineup, Lazzeri, put up some outstanding career numbers. In 14 seasons the Hall of Fame righty drove in over 100 runs seven times. Keep in mind where his place in the batting order was. He was part of the famed, “Murderers Row” Yankees lineup that featured two sluggers named, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Lazzeri was the first person to hit 2 grand slams in one game accomplishing that feat in 1936 vs the Athletics. He’s the only player to hit a grand slam to complete a “natural” cycle, where he did it in that order. (single, double, triple, home run)

Lazzeri also helped the Yankees start their dynasty by contributing to five world championships in 1927, 28, 32, 36, and 1937.

His lifetime batting average of .292 with 178 Homeruns and 1191 runs batted in along with 986 runs scored, were overshadowed by the exploits of Ruth and Gehrig. Lazzeri also holds the American League record of 11 R.B.I.’s in one single game.

Given the nickname “Poosh Em Up Tony” by his Italian “goomba’s,” which was a mistranslation of the Italian phrase of “hit it out,” Lazzeri passed away in 1946 at the age of 42, by a fall while having a seizure. The Veterans Committee voted him into the Hall of Fame in 1991, which leads me to the question of, “Why did it take so long?”

Throughout his Yankees career, Lazzeri also wore the numbers 6, 5, 23, and 7. All of those were eventually put out of circulation in honor of Joe Torre, Joe DiMaggio, Don Mattingly, and Mickey Mantle. However uniform number 2 is the one Lazzeri was associated with.

Now it’s the Yankees turn to do what’s right. With a history of mystique and aura with a flair for the dramatic, the Yankees need to honor the original bearer of the number 2, along with the future Hall of Famer, Captain Jeter during that Mother’s Day ceremony. They did it in 1972 with Berra and Dickey, and they surely could do it again for Derek Sanderson Jeter and Anthony Michael “Tony” Lazzeri, the most underrated Yankee and probably the most underrated baseball player in major league history.

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