The National League Central is stacked when it comes to retired numbers, and it's not just because there are six teams. NL Central teams have retired a total of 44 player jerseys accounting for a staggering team-specific rWAR of 2,173.8. Even when pro-rating these figures to a five team division, the Middle American Senior Circuit outpaces all rivals.
It's no surprise that the Cardinals lead this pack with 585 combined team-specific wins above replacement, averaging 58.5 per player. However, our younger readers may be shocked to discover that the Pittsburgh Pirates were once a successful franchise. It's true! The Bucs are second with 454.3 team-specific rWAR—an average of 56.8 per retired uniform.
And there's no forgetting the Cubs and Reds. The Cubs are #3 in the division in total rWAR for retired unis and #4 in mean rWAR; the Reds are #5 and #4 in the same columns.
Finally, the strength of the Astros and Brewers in this area is testament to how illustrious the NL Central is. Both teams rank high among total rWAR for retired uniforms even though they are both expansion teams.
Tidbits about retired numbers in the NL Central:
- The Cubs' retired numbers collection includes Greg Maddux, whose #31 is also retired on the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs also retired #31 in honor of Fergie Jenkins.
- The Reds retired the numbers of two non-players, including managers Fred Hutchinson (#1) and Sparky Anderson (#10). They also retired Willard Hershberger's #5 for two seasons (1940 and 1941) following his tragic death.
- The Astros retired #34 in honor of Nolan Ryan in 1996, the same as the Rangers and four years after the Angels retired Ryan's #30. This makes Ryan the only player whose uniform is retired on three separate teams.
- Hank Aaron, whose #44 is retired as a Brewer as well as a Brave, posted only 0.4 rWAR during his time as a member of the Brew Crew. What the Hammer means to the city of Milwaukee, of course, defies quantification.
- The Pirates retired #1 in honor of manager Billy Meyer in 1954.
- While Rogers Hornsby never wore a number, the Cardinals honor his uniform alongside the numbers that St. Louis has retired, and thus qualifies in this list. They also retired #85—the highest of all retired numbers that a player, coach or manager might wear on a ball field—in honor of late owner August Busch.