The No. 45 Controversy

Does the number always belong to Tug?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Pedro shows off his new jersey to the ire of some Phillies purists.

    Should Pedro Martinez be allowed to wear No. 45 when he puts on that Phillies uniform?

    The question was making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter since the Phils added Pedro for the rest of the season.

    Some fans want the No. 45 to forever belong to former Phillies reliever (and oracle) Tug McGraw. The “Tugger” wore No. 45 when he jumped up with joy after striking out the Royals to win the franchise’s first World Series.

    He wore No. 45 for a decade with the Phillies. He was the guy who often came into the game to shut the door on the competition and Phils fans fell in love with his fun loving attitude.

    Wanting to forever immortalize the iconic image of “Tugger” in the air with the No. 45 on his back was tough to argue with, but why now that Pedro wants to wear his own No. 45 does everyone want it retired?

    After Tug’s death from cancer in 2004 there was some chatter to retire his number not only here in Philly but also in New York where he was beloved for his role with the 1969 champion Mets.

    The simple fact was that the Phillies won’t retire the number of non-Hall of Famers.

    But just because a number wasn’t retired doesn’t mean that it should be worn again. Just ask the Flyers the last time they issued Pelle Lindbergh’s No. 31? From what we can tell no one has worn No. 31 in orange and black since Lindbergh’s death.

    But this whole argument was as much about Phillies fans not wanting to see a former Red Sox and Mets pitcher like Pedro don No. 45 than it was about retiring Tug’s number.

    Martinez wouldn’t be the first Phillie player to wear No. 45 since McGraw retired in 1984. Heck the list of players who wore No. 45 since “Tugger” reads like a who’s who of Phillies futility: Greg Jelks (1987), Dave Palmer (1988), Terry Mulholland (1989-1993, 1996), Tom Edens (1994), Mike Mimbs (1995), Danny Tartabull (1997), Yorkis Perez (1998), Jeff Brantley (1999-2000), Chris Brock (2001) and Tom Gordon (2006-2008).

    Unlike that cavalcade of Phillies No. 45s Pedro will one day be a Hall of Famer -- can’t say that about guys like Jelks or Mimbs.

    Heck someone currently in the Phillies dugout already wore No. 45 this season -- Bench Coach Pete MacKanin. P-Mac agreed to give up his number to Pedro -- good move by the coach.

    So everyone should just relax about the numbers thing. It’s great that only six numbers (including Jackie Robinson’s No. 42) were retired by the Phillies. Only Hall of Famers' numbers won't be worn again.

    Tug was great but he will never be in Cooperstown.

    And, Tug would have likely loved a fun-loving, hard-thrower like Pedro wearing his No. 45, said Phillies spokesman Scott Palmer.

    So, let Pedro do exactly what Tug did when he came from the Mets to Phillies -- put on that No. 45 jersey.

    And let’s hope that the 37-year-old righty has some jump-on-the-mound-with-joy excitement left for Phillies fans.