What's missing from this picture? Here's a hint:
Yup, the heart and soul of the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Tug McGraw.
Ok, sure, he coined his trademark phrase, "Ya gotta believe!" with the hated New York Mets, but the guy is a Phillie through and through. He loved this city, and even became good friends with a local bartender who may or may not have fathered a very sexy young man who may or may not be writing this blog. (Ok, I'm biased)
Regardless, the above picture is one of, if not the most iconic photo in the history of Philadelphia sports. The joyous, emphatic jokester leaping into the air after striking out Willie Wilson with the great maroon "45" emblazoned on his chest is seared into the memory of Phillies fans.
Currently, Tom Gordon holds that number, but A.)He hasn't really done much with it, and B.)He may not be around much longer anyway. Tug represented everything decent, honest and fun about this city and should be remembered at Citizen's Bank Park for as long as it stands. Should Tugger have his numbered painted on that brick wall? Well, ya gotta believe.
The Sixers do a good job of retiring numbers, and the Eagles have a severe lack of recent heroes and did good by the fans by retiring Reggie White's number 92 in December of 2005. The Flyers, however, have been woefully remiss in their acknowledgment of their own rich history. Currently, the Flyers have retired the numbers of Bernie Parent (1), Barry Ashbee (4), Bill Barber (7), and Bobby Clarke (16). In addition, no one has worn 31 since Pelle Lindbergh's tragic death in 1985 out of rememberence and respect, but it is not officially retired. So, taking into account the unspoken gesture for Pelle, there are three Flyers legends who's numbers should be hoisted into the rafters in South Philly.
I don't know if a double-retirement has ever taken palce before in professional sports, but here is a case-in-point example of a great place to start. Reggie Leach was the "L" in the "LCB Line" of himself, Bill Barber, and Bobby Clarke. He scored 45 goals in his first season with the Flyers (their second straight Cup-Winning season) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1976 netting 24 points in 16 playoff games even though the Flyers lost the Cup to the Montreal Canadiens. Flyers fans from the era will always remember "27", "7" and "16" racing down the ice for the old Broadstreet Bullies.
Ron Hextall was an icon between the pipes for the Orange and Black. Just like Leach, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Flyers in a year that they did not win the Stanley Cup (they were ousted in seven games by the Oilers in the '87 Finals). He was also the first goaltender to score a goal (he did it again in '89 to become the first to do so in the playoffs). Putting aside his goal-scoring prowess, he was also the toughest netminder to ever put on a pair of skates and frequently leveled opponents who got too close to the crease. This guy WAS Philadelphia.
Only five players in the history of the NHL have ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the losing team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Reggie Leach and Ron Hextall are two of them, and two of only three (Jean-Sibastian Gigure the other in 2003) since 1970. I'd love to see the day where "Leach/Hextall" sat above a giant black "27" in the rafters of the Wachovia Center.
(edit: The Washington Nationals have "10" retired for both Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub for their stint with the Expos, and the Yankees have put the kibosh on new players wearing "8" for both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.)
The final retiree in the Mike Muller Under-appreciated Athlete Hall of Fame is one whom many of my friends disagree with me on, but I'll stick to my guns nonetheless. He is, after all, my favorite hockey player of all time. Loyal readers, I give you the Man, the Myth, the Legend:
Look at this fuckin' guy!!!!!!!! King of Suave. Sultan of Stickchecks. Prince of the Penalty Box. Duke of the Deke. Baron of Broadstreet. Sion of the Spectrum!!!!!!!
Ok, sure we're used to seeing him like this now,