One of the burning questions in the minds of Phillies fans the last couple of days was not where newly-acquired outfielder Bryce Harper will fit in the lineup. It was not when he might make his debut in Grapefruit action. But instead, what uniform number will he wear?

Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer was first to report that Harper will wear jersey number 3.  Despite wearing number 34 for his entire major league career and his one year of college, Harper will wear something new. Of course, number 34 was worn by the late Roy Halladay, who is set to be inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July.

Doing so, he abandons a tradition of wearing numbers that add up to seven, the jersey number of his idol Mickey Mantle.

Number 7 itself is worn by third baseman Maikel Franco.  Number 16, which Harper wore for a time in high school, is taken by Cesar Hernandez.  Other combinations are all taken: 25 by Dylan Cozens, 43 by Nick Pivetta, 52 by Jose Alvarez and number 61 by Edubray Ramos.  They just wouldn't look right for a major slugger like Harper.

Sources tell me that if Harper really wanted to wear number 34, the Phillies would have approached the Halladay family to get their thoughts.  The Phillies recently approached Jimmy Rollins to see what he thought about J.T. Realmuto wearing number 11, which he wore with the Miami Marlins.  But Realmuto was happy to wear number 10.

It is unclear whether or not the Phillies will retire number 34.  According to internal policy, the Phillies will retire numbers only if the player is in the Hall of Fame.  However, the uniform numbers of Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, and Mike Schmidt happened ahead of their induction, though the club felt them all to be inevitable.

Halladay was with the Phillies from 2010 through 2013.  One might argue that four years is not enough time to merit a number being retired.  Jim Bunning, whose number 14 was retired after his election to the Hall of Fame, played six years with the Phillies, though the final two seasons of his career were not his memorable ones.

Since Halladay retired after the 2013 season, the number 34 was worn by five players.  Halladay's friend A.J. Burnett wore it first in 2014.  Aaron Harang donned the number in 2015. Then, Brett Oberholtzer got the opportunity next. (Interestingly, Oberholtzer wore Halladay's Blue Jays 32 in Blue Jays camp a couple years ago).  The following season after the trade of Carlos Ruiz, catcher A.J. Ellis wore it the rest of the way, and in 2017 Andrew Knapp assumed the number.

After Halladay's untimely death, Knapp switched to jersey number 15 and the number was not issued in 2018.

As if the signing of Harper did not mean enough for Phillies fans, they appear to appreciate Harper's willingness to leave 34 for Doc.  The Phillies are said to have not made a decision about whether to retire Halladay's number.  I think if the fans got their way, no one would wear 34 again.

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