By Michael C. Jones
Seahawks GM John Schneider acquiesced to the wishes of wide receiver Doug Baldwin and his fellow players earlier this week. On Saturday Baldwin tweeted, “Dear @Pete Carroll, We are thrilled with the new teammates. One condition. Nobody wears #24 for years to come. Sincerely, The Players.” On Monday, Schneider told 710 ESPN, “One of my last conversations with Marshawn was that no one was going to wear 24 this year, in the regular season.” Schneider lightheartedly suggested that Baldwin may have over-stepped his bounds, adding, “Glad he wants to contribute to, you know, us distributing jersey numbers, too.”
Clemson running back Zac Brooks, a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks, wore 24 in college, something he won’t do as a member of the Seahawks.
Will the Seahawks eventually retire the number 24 for good? The Seahawks have retired four numbers: 80 (Steve Largent), 71 (Walter Jones), 96 (Cortez Kennedy) and 12 (for the 12s). Those players are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and spent their entire careers with the Seahawks. (Well, sort of: Largent was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was traded to the Seahawks after the preseason games, so he never wore a Bucs uniform in the regular season.) Lynch began his pro career with the Bills.
But for today’s Seahawks fans, Lynch will always be associated with the number 24. He will certainly draw consideration for the team’s Ring of Honor, and number retirement isn’t out of the question. At the risk of overstepping boundaries, we present the most iconic numbers in Seattle pro sports history, numbers that are worthy of never being worn again by their respective teams. One caveat: only one of these players spent his entire career with his Seattle team.
Let’s start with the Seahawks:
10 – Jim Zorn
Zorn teamed with Largent as the latter began his Hall of Fame career. Zorn’s three consecutive seasons of 3,000 yards passing were a team record that stood until the Matt Hasselback era. Zorn, who stood out among quarterbacks for his scrambling ability and for throwing left handed, led the Seahawks through their first seven seasons. They had only two winning seasons during that time and wouldn’t make the playoffs until Zorn was benched during the 1983 season in favor of….
17 – Dave Krieg
Krieg took over for Zorn and led the Seahawks to their first playoff appearance, an unlikely run that saw the Seahawks reach the AFC Championship, where they lost to the Raiders. Like Zorn, Krieg was an undrafted free agent who far surpassed expectations. Those two almost evenly split the career of Steve Largent. Krieg took the Seahawks deeper into the playoffs than any other quarterback until…
8 – Matt Hasselbeck
Hasselbeck started his career as understudy to Brett Favre in Green Bay, and he learned well. After being traded to Seattle, Hasselbeck led the Seahawks to six playoff appearances (five consecutive) and the team’s first Super Bowl. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times. Having just retired, his induction into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor is only a matter of time.
Marshawn’s isn’t the most famous 24 in Seattle sports history. Those digits bring us to the Mariners….
24 – Ken Griffey, Jr.
Griffey is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the only stumbling block toward the Mariners retiring his number is that the Mariners have retired only one number, and it’s the one number the entirety of Major League Baseball has retired, Jackie Robinson’s 42. Griffey is synonymous with the Mariners, though his legacy here was slightly tarnished by his departure for Cincinnati and his abrupt retirement.
51 – Randy Johnson & Ichiro Suzuki
Johnson’s hold on the number 51 might have been unbreakable had his departure from Seattle not been even more acrimonious than Griffey’s. Johnson pitched the first no-hitter in Mariners history. His slow walk from the bullpen to pitch in relief on one day’s rest in game five of the 1995 American League Division Series against the Yankees is one of the most dramatic moments in Mariners history. But the Mariners didn’t extend his contract, Johnson’s attitude came into question and he has gone into the Hall of Fame as a Diamondback.
The Mariners chose to give 51 to Ichiro in 2001, and Ichiro was concerned about the number’s history, promising privately to Johnson not bring shame to the number. Far from it: Ichiro broke the rookie hits record (242) and the season hits record (262), he set the mark for consecutive steals without being caught (45), and he hit the only inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history, all as a Mariner. While with Seattle, he won ten Gold Gloves in a row. But like Johnson, Ichiro also eventually left Seattle, unlike the only player who wore his iconic number for only one team.
11 – Edgar Martinez
Let’s get this out of the way: Edgar Martinez, who spent his entire 18-year career as a Mariner, belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, injury and a lack of mobility made him a full-time designated hitter, but the award given to the best designated hitter each season bears his name, and he is the only designated hitter to win a batting title, which he did during the Mariners’ remarkable 1995 season (it was his second, the first coming before he committed to being a DH). Seven All-Star Games, five Silver Slugger Awards, and he’s in the Mariners Hall of Fame. If not for Martinez and Johnson and that great 1995 Mariners team, we probably wouldn’t have Major League Baseball in Seattle, which brings us to…
20 – Gary Payton/40 – Shawn Kemp
It’s impossible to discuss Payton’s Seattle accomplishments without including Kemp, and vice versa. With two of the best nicknames in the game, The Glove and The Reign Man fill hours of YouTube videos with their alley oops alone. Their collaboration peaked with a trip to the 1996 NBA Finals, pushing Michael Jordan and the Bulls to six games before succumbing to Chicago. Now all we need to do is resurrect the Sonics in Seattle so we can have the debate over whether, or more likely when, to retire their numbers.