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[Athletic] Why haven’t the Angels retired Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson’s numbers?

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At the start of spring training in 2020, newly-signed Los Angeles Angels catcher Jason Castro arrived at camp to see he’d been assigned the No. 15.

While that sounds routine enough, that decision had a certain significance. It had been 14 years since any Angels player wore No. 15 in an MLB game. Fourteen years since Tim Salmon, a true Angels legend, had retired from the sport.

Castro decided he didn’t feel right wearing it, and asked for a different number. He was given No. 16 instead.

“Just a sign of respect to Tim Salmon,” Castro told reporters at the time. “I didn’t want to be the first one to wear (the number) since and break the streak.”

What Castro recognized then was that No. 15 shouldn’t be in circulation. That’s a feeling held by many in and around the Angels organization, who say no one should wear the No. 15, or, and apologies to Castro, the No. 16, ever again.

Salmon played his entire 14-year career with the Angels. He hit 299 homers, posted a career .884 OPS, won a Rookie of the Year, a Silver Slugger, and received MVP votes in three different seasons. Among Angels batting leaders, he ranks No. 2 in offensive WAR, third in OBP, second in games played and second in home runs.


Salmon hit 299 homers in his career, all of them for the Angels. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images)

And then there’s Garret Anderson, Salmon’s longtime teammate. He spent 15 years with the Angels wearing the No. 16. He was a three-time All-Star and drove in at least 116 runs over four consecutive seasons. He crushed 272 homers with the Angels and drove in 1,292 runs. No one has played more games as an Angel.

Most importantly, they were the two best players on the Angels’ lone World Series championship team in 2002. Those who know say that they deserve it over anyone.

“Tim and Garret were never self-promoting,” said longtime Angels teammate David Eckstein. “That’s why outside of the area, you might not really understand. Like ‘Oh, they need their number retired?’ And it’s like, ‘Yes they do.’

“You want to talk about two guys that were a fixture in Angels baseball, look at their stats,” said Scott Spiezio, another longtime Angels teammate. “In every single category, they’re like one-two. Those two guys, they’re just made different. They were both leaders. To me, they are the Angels.”

Angels upper management, however, said their jersey retirement is not currently under consideration.

“Our organization is continually exploring ways to honor our club’s rich history, including Hall of Fame inductions, in-stadium displays and jersey retirements,” a team spokesman said. “We do not have any immediate plans to retire a number.”

The Angels have retired five numbers in their history: No. 11 (Jim Fregosi), No. 26 (Gene Autry), No. 29 (Rod Carew), No. 30 (Nolan Ryan), and No. 50 (Jimmie Reese), in addition to Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, which is retired across the entire sport.

Angels owner Arte Moreno has never retired a number in his 22 seasons at the helm of this organization. He’s overseen the inductions of 10 Angels Hall of Famers, including Salmon and Anderson. But, as those with experience will readily note, there’s a significant difference between a team Hall of Fame induction, and a jersey retirement.

“There’s (team) Hall of Famers and then there’s the dudes,” said longtime Angels TV broadcaster Mark Gubicza. “I think for me, Salmon and GA are the dudes. I think they deserve to have their numbers retired. ”

Gubicza would certainly know the difference. He is in the Royals Hall of Fame, but fully recognizes that Kansas City shouldn’t retire his number.

He also knows Salmon and Anderson well. Both as teammates of theirs in 1997, and currently as broadcast colleagues.

“I think the fans would love it,” he added. “I think the team, the players would like it too. Because it gives you a goal as a player, that it would be cool to have my number retired by an organization.”

Different teams have different standards for jersey retirements. Some only retire the numbers of players actively in MLB’s Hall of Fame. Others do it on a case-by-case basis. The New York Yankees, for example, have 21 numbers retired in honor of 23 players (Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra both wore No. 8, and Robinson and Mariano Rivera both wore No. 42).

The Angels have not historically been of the belief that a player needs to be in Cooperstown. Fregosi, whose number is retired, is not in MLB’s Hall of Fame. And while he was on the original Angels team, his career numbers pale in comparison to what Salmon and Anderson accomplished in a Halos uniform. 

Tim Mead served as the Angels’ VP of communications for 40 years, then was briefly the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He’s revered in the organization and has an encyclopedic knowledge of its history.

“With Tim and Garrett, I think there’s little debate that they top the list of potential candidates,” Mead said. “While it’s a regular topic of discussion on social media, I think it’s also one that’s not lost within the organization.”

Last season, the subject got new life when outfielder Randal Grichuk was assigned the No. 15 after being traded to the Angels at the deadline. He became the first player since Salmon retired in 2006 to wear it for the Angels.

No. 16 has long been in circulation following Anderson’s departure. It’s been worn by Hank Conger, Huston Street, Nolan Fontana, Jarrett Parker, Castro, Drew Butera, Brandon Marsh and, currently, Mickey Moniak.


Anderson played in Anaheim for 15 years and made three All-Star teams with the Angels. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

Salmon and Anderson both remain humble when discussing the subject. Salmon told the Orange County Register last year that he didn’t mind Grichuk donning No. 15. Anderson said he thinks players only deserve the honor if they’re also in Cooperstown.

While neither wants to advocate on his own behalf, there are plenty of others happy to do it for them. That includes teammates, staff, and even some of those who covered their careers.

“They’re the only World Series-winning team in (63) years of the franchise. So why not honor these two guys,” said Mike DiGiovanna, who was on the Angels beat for the Los Angeles Times for more than two decades.

“Neither of them were tied to any performance-enhancing drug scandal, despite that the heart of their career was right during that period. They were the key offensive players on a World Series-winning team. You’re not going to get a chance to honor players like this until it comes time to retire No. 27.”

That, of course, refers to the number assigned to Mike Trout when he was first called up in 2011. It’s the same number that Vladimir Guerrero had worn with the Angels during his spectacular six-year tenure in Anaheim.

Guerrero, an Angels Hall of Famer, would also go on to Cooperstown representing the team in 2018. But that creates a conundrum of sorts for any potential jersey number retirement. Trout is a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer, who should finish as the greatest Angel of all time. Guerrero’s time with the franchise and enshrinement in Cooperstown would seem to make him deserving of a jersey retirement as well.

If and when the No. 27 is retired, it will likely be with both names. And Trout sounds okay with that possibility.

“Having your number retired is special for sure,” Trout said. “… It’s pretty cool what we both brought to the game and to the organization. I think that’s pretty special. It’s one of those things that I didn’t realize I was wearing Vlady’s number until halfway through my rookie year.”

The fact that Trout was assigned 27 all those years ago could speak to the perspective Moreno appears to have regarding the importance of uniform numbers. Just this season, Shohei Ohtani’s No. 17 was immediately given to non-roster invitee Hunter Dozier. In 2022, the No. 34 was given to Noah Syndergaard. The last player to wear it was Nick Adenhart, before his tragic death in 2009.

That’s not to say that there are active campaigns to retire No. 17 or No. 34. But it’s relevant in answering the question of why very deserving players like Salmon and Anderson have not been given an honor that many believe they’ve earned.

Trout, for example, had nothing but glowing praise for two players he said he still leans on.

“Looking back on GA and Salmon, what they’ve meant for this organization, winning a championship, the people they are, the careers they had and they were unbelievable players,” Trout said. “I pick their brains even today.”

Salmon and Anderson remain involved with the Angels, and not just to assist Trout.

Both serve as pre- and post-game analysts on Bally Sports West. Salmon worked on the Angels’ coaching staff in September of last season, and has informally been an advisor to Angels upper management. Their stats are worthy. Their character is described as unimpeachable.

Salmon and Anderson’s imprint on this team’s history is indelible and their relationship with the fans will never fade. For Anderson, that relationship took time to develop, and popularity didn’t come as easily as it did for the more outgoing Salmon.

But now more than a decade removed from their Angels tenures, those boosting their candidacies say it’s time for the Angels to make this decision. For the organization. The fans. And most importantly, for Salmon and Anderson.

“I think it’s the legacy,” Eckstein said. “That’s the biggest thing. When you go across the other clubs, and you see, and you see those names on the wall of the numbers that are retired, it means something to those franchises.

“And what Tim and Garret did for that franchise, it wouldn’t have been where it was. We wouldn’t have won a World Series. These were two of the pillars of our organization.”

(Top photo of Salmon and Anderson in 2007: Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

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