06/23/10 11:15 PM ET
D-backs to retire Gonzo's number Aug. 7
No. 20 of 'franchise's most popular player' to be immortalized
By Andrew Pentis / MLB.com
During a pregame ceremony on Aug. 7, those digits -- a five-foot-tall purple version, anyway -- will be placed next to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 on the façade overlooking right field at Chase Field.
"We have had a change of heart regarding our policy for retiring uniform numbers and no longer require the players to be members of the Hall of Fame first," said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall in a statement on Wednesday. "We have a rich history since our inception, and our players who played a large role in our success deserve recognition. When we announced Gonzo's retirement last season and return to the organization in a front-office capacity, it was clear that a major touch was missing. Paying tribute to our franchise's most popular player is fitting indeed."
Gonzalez arrived in Arizona in exchange for Karim Garcia in a December 1998 trade with the Tigers. Over the ensuing eight seasons, he became the franchise's leader in games (1,194), hits (1,337), home runs (224) and RBIs (774). Gonazlez finished his career as a Florida Marlin in 2008.
Gonzalez is best known for fisting a Mariano Rivera cutter into shallow center field to beat the New York Yankees and clinch the 2001 World Series title -- a moment that was replayed on Chase Field's big screen during Game 1 of Arizona's three-game series with the visiting Yankees on Monday.
"I prided myself on kind of being a stable horse with the organization, and for them to give me the honor of being the actual first player to have my number retired as a Diamondback, it's pretty special," Gonzalez said on Wednesday night.
So what are the perks -- aside from receiving a bobblehead day on Aug. 7 -- that come with having one's numerals hung from the rafters?
"I don't think they're going to be flying me around the world or anything," joked Gonzalez, now a special assistant to the organization's president and CEO. "I think they'll send me to [Class A] Visalia or Double-A [Mobile] to go check on some players over there. I wouldn't have it any different. ... I'm not playing anymore. That's what I would really love to be doing, but I'm still around the game and I enjoy going to see some of the younger players and still seeing that spark in their eyes, to know that they want to get to the Major Leagues. When you walk out there and they know who you are, they grasp every word that you say. It's pretty cool to go out there and know that you're still respected by a lot of the players."
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.