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Retiring numbers: Deserved recognition or joke?

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Derek Jeter, left, became the 22nd New York Yankee baseball player to have his jersey number retired.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Retiring an athlete’s jersey number is one of the greatest honors that a team bestows its former star. Most deserve the accolade. Some cause head scratching.

Last weekend, Derek Jeter became the 22nd New York Yankee to have his number retired. His No. 2 was retired during a ceremony last Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star, led the Yankees to five World Series pennants and he was named Most Valuable Player of the 2000 Series.

The Indianapolis Colts will retire quarterback Peyton Manning’s No. 18 in October. Manning played 13 seasons with the Colts and passed for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns. He won Super Bowl XLI for the franchise’s second championship title.

Some colleges retire a player’s number, Oklahoma State has but Oklahoma has not.

Oklahoma’s football team does not retire a player’s number, and the university has no plans in the future to change the policy. The numbers often mentioned are 77, 38 and 93.

Guard Bob Kalsu, an All-American, was killed by mortar fire in South Vietnam. He was 25-years-old. Prentice Gautt, the first African-American to letter for the Sooners, wore No. 38 in the late 1950s. He also was a darned good halfback earning back-to-back all-Big Eight Conference honors. Defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon wore No. 98 for OU in the mid-1970s. Selmon, a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award winner, is considered the best Sooner to ever slip on a Crimson uniform.

The Sooners’ basketball team has honored some of their players by hanging their jerseys in the rafters, but not retiring their numbers—Wayman Tisdale (23), Alvan Adams (33), Mookie Blaylock (10), Stacy King (33), and Blake Griffin (23).

Oklahoma State’s football team retired Barry Sanders’ No. 21 jersey. Sanders never led OSU to any titles, but he’s the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner and is the NCAA all-time single-season rushing champion with 2,628 yards.

OSU also retired Thurman Thomas’ No. 34. Thomas, an All-American, never led the Pokes to any championships, but he is the school’s leading rush champ with 4,595 yards. He also was a two-time Big Eight Conference Player of the Year.

Terry Miller’s No. 43 also has been retired at OSU. He did lead the Cowboys to a three-way share of the Big Eight Conference title 1976. Miller was a two-time All-American halfback for the Pokes in the mid-1970s and Big Eight Conference Player of the Year twice.

What is puzzling is that Bob Fenimore’s No. 55 hasn’t been retired at OSU. He was a two-time All-American in the mid-1940s and led the Cowboys to a 17-1 record in two seasons, which included two Missouri Valley Conference titles and two bowl victories.

Fenimore led the Pokes to their only undefeated season in 1945, and he was the national leader in both total offense (1,641 yards) and rushing (1,119) while ranking seventh in punting (39.0) and 13th in scoring (72 points). He still holds the school record with 18 career interceptions.

Oklahoma State retired the No. 10 basketball jersey, however, to honor the 10 team members killed in a January 2001 plane crash.

What I can’t figure out is why the University of Texas retired Kevin Durant’s No. 35 jersey?

Durant played one season, for the Longhorns in 2006-07. He was a consensus National Player of the Year and became the first freshman bestowed such honor. He ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (25.8 points) and rebounding (11.1) during his one season with the Longhorns.

“I’ve never been one to pay attention to individual honors, as I take more pride in team success,” Durant said of the honor.

What team success? UT didn’t win the Big12 Conference regular season title, Kansas did. The Steers finished third. They also lost to the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Championship game. KD did earn the MVP honor in the tournament.

KD has had a terrific NBA career earning several All-Star accolades, and he was named NBA Player of the Year three years ago.

What he did at Texas doesn’t deserve a retired number.

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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