Stories of Retired Numbers in Arizona H.S. Sports

By Nicholas Welter

What seemed to be an ordinary afternoon for Scott Hanson, a thirty-year official of high school football and baseball in Arizona; turned out to be the inspiration for his next book.

Hanson’s first book, titled “Who is Gym”, chronicled why certain high school sports facilities in Arizona are named after people.

Shortly after his first book was published, Hanson was umpiring a game for Paradise Valley High School. He noticed seven baseball uniforms on the outfield fence and wondered why those numbers had been retired.

image002Through this observation, Hanson set out to find every retired number in Arizona high school sports and capture a lost part of Arizona sports history.

“I reached out to the athletic directors at every high school in Arizona and asked them if they had any retired numbers in any sport,” Hanson said.

Often, Hanson found that many athletic directors did not know if their school had any retired numbers. Even in the cases where the school did know, they did not know for who or why the number was retired.

“Some of these numbers were retired a long long time ago,” Hanson said. “For example there is someone at Hayden High School from the class of 1947 who had his number retired.”

Hanson says that this lack of information is a generational difference and a break in the tradition of the continuation of knowledge at these individual schools. Many of the athletic directors at these schools were not alive at the time that some of these numbers were retired.

Because of this, Hanson had to dig a little bit deeper. He mentioned that beyond athletic directors, he talked to librarians, local historians, some of the individuals themselves and the family members of those individuals.

Through his research he found that 71 high schools in Arizona have retired a number is some sport and 186 different individuals are honored.

Of those 186, the top three sports were baseball with 74 individuals, football with 58 individuals, and boys basketball with 24 individuals.

Although the statistics would suggest there is a pattern, Hanson believes there is a reason for the lack of variation.

“I think a lot of it is a cultural thing,” said Hanson. “Baseball has a tendency to retire numbers more so than in other sports and I think that baseball coaches are more in that mindset than coaches of other sports.”

But not all athletes that were honored actually wore numbers. Hanson told that there are great stories of schools that honor their successful athletes. For example, Shadow Mountain High School retired the swim cap of Olympic swimmer Misty Hyman and Greenway--Jeff CannadaGreenway High School retired the track shoes of runner Jeff Cannada.

“I think this really speaks to the creativity and willingness of these athletic directors to recognize the tremendous accomplishments that these athletes achieved that came through their schools,” Hanson said.

Another aspect of his research that Hanson said was enjoyable for him was the powerful stories that he was able to discover about the numbers that were being honored.

One story that Hanson said moved him in particular came from Lee Williams High School in Kingman. At Lee Williams, the number 11 is not issued in any sport to honor the 11 volunteers and firemen who lost their lives fighting a fire in 1973.Lee Williams -- #11

“Performance on the field is not all that matters,” Hanson said. “Honoring people that have served the community is another great way to give tribute to the history of the school and its community.”

Hanson said that the reception of his book has been nothing but positive and that it has been really touching to hear from the families of the athletes that are involved.

You can find Scott’s book “What’s Your Number?” at