NFL: Peyton Manning's #18 was retired in Denver, but Frank Tripucka allowed Manning to wear his retired number.(1) Kyle Orton wore #8 with the Broncos, even though he wore #18 with the Bears, his team prior to being part of the Broncos.(2)
MLB: There are two #8's (Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra) that are retired...Berra wore Dickey's number before it was retired.(3) Also, the same has happened with Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux with #31 with the Chicago Cubs.
MLB: Ichiro (originally #51 for the Seattle Mariners) wears #31 for the Yankees as #51 was worn by Bernie Williams (although not retired -- most likely out of respect).(4)
NFL: #12 for the Seattle Seahawks is retired for the 12th man.(5)
And as waxeagle states:
MLB has retired #42 league wide in honor of Jackie Robinson, several
players were allowed to keep the number until they retired. Mariano
Rivera is the last of these players. However, all MLB players and
umpires wear #42 on Jackie Robinson day.
Has the practice of retiring numbers ever created a significant
problem for a major league sports team? How do they work around it?
I can't recall an instance where a significant problem occured. However, the examples above show several solutions to work around it.
- The retired player volunteers to let a player wear his retired number.
- The player asks permission from the retired player to wear his number.
- If the number is not retired, it's fair game. If both careers are stellar, then both players have their same number retired.
- If the number you originally wear is retired/worn by a significant player in a team's history, wear a different number (humility vs. pride).