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By the Numbers: The Best to Wear #1-51

December 23, 2012
Jeter, the best to don #2 (Sports Illustrated)

Jeter, the best to don #2 (Sports Illustrated)

On April 18, 1929, in a 7-3 Opening Day victory over Boston, the Yankees became the first team to make numbers a permanent part of their uniform.  In the 83 years since over 1,000 men have worn the pinstripes.  What I attempted to do with this list was find who the best player was at each number, excluding coaches.  I also included the next best at each number to show how close the competition was.  Some players wore multiple numbers during their career in pinstripes, so their ranking is based on their performance while wearing that particular number.  I went up to #51 to include Bernie, but things get pretty thin after that.
*     *     *     *     *
  1. Bobby Richardson (1958-1966) | Bobby Murcer (1969-1974)
  2. Derek Jeter (1995-Present) | Red Rolfe (1931-1942)
  3. Babe Ruth (1929-1934) | George Selkirk (1935-1942)
  4. Lou Gehrig (1929-1939) [The Only Yankee to Ever Wear 4]
  5. Joe DiMaggio (1937-1951) | Frankie Crosetti (1932-1936)
  6. Joe Gordon (1938-1946) | Tony Lazzeri (1929, 1934-1937)
  7. Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) | Ben Chapman (1930-1936)
  8. Yogi Berra (1948-1962) | Bill Dickey (1930-1946)
  9. Roger Maris (1960-1966) | Graig Nettles (1973-1983)
  10. Phil Rizzuto (1941-1956) | Tony Kubek (1958-1965)
  11. Lefty Gomez (1932-1942) | Chuck Knoblauch (1998-2001)
  12. Gil McDougald (1951-1959) | Wade Boggs (1993-1997)
  13. Alex Rodriguez (2004-Present) | Jim Leyritz (1993-1996, 1999-2000)
  14. Bill Skowron (1955-1962) | Lou Piniella (1974-1983)
  15. Red Ruffing (1932-1946) | Thurman Munson (1969-1979)
  16. Whitey Ford (1951-1967) | Monte Pearson (1936-1940)
  17. Vic Raschi (1947-1953) | Mickey Rivers (1976-1979)
  18. Don Larsen (1955-1959) | Scott Brosius (1998-2001)
  19. Bob Turley (1955-1962) | Johnny Murphy (1934-1946)
  20. Jorge Posada (1997-2011) | Tiny Bonham (1940-1946)
  21. Spud Chandler (1938-1947) | Paul O’Neill (1993-2001)
  22. Allie Reynolds (1947-1954) | Roger Clemens (1999-2003, 2007)
  23. Don Mattingly (1984-1995) | Ralph Terry (1959-1964)
  24. Robinson Cano (2007-Present) | Rickey Henderson (1985-1989)
  25. Joe Pepitone (1962-1969) | Tommy John (1979-1982, 1986-1989)
  26. Ryne Duren (1958-1961) | Orlando Hernandez (1998-2004)
  27. Johnny Lindell (1946-1950) | Rollie Hemsley (1943-1945)
  28. Sparky Lyle (1972-1978) | Tommy Byrne (1946-1954)
  29. Catfish Hunter (1975-1979) | Mike Stanton (1997-2002, 2005)
  30. Mel Stottlemyre (1964-1974) | Willie Randolph (1976-1988)
  31. Dave Winfield (1981-1990) | Ed Figueroa (1976-1980)
  32. Elston Howard (1955-1967) | Tommy Henrich (1967)
  33. David Wells (1997-1998, 2002-2003) | Nick Swisher (2009-2012)
  34. Clete Boyer (1959-1961) | Tony Kubek (1957)
  35. Mike Mussina (2001-2008) | John Wetteland (1995-1996)
  36. David Cone (1995-2000) | Johnny Mize (1949-1953)
  37. Gus Niarhos (1946) | Herb Karpel (1946)
  38. Johnny Blanchard (1955, 1959-1965) | Matt Nokes (1990-1994)
  39. Jim Coates (1959-1962) | Roberto Kelly (1987-1992)
  40. Chien-Ming Wang (2005-2009) | Lindy McDaniel (1968-1973)
  41. Jake Gibbs (1962-1971) | Bob Cerv (1953-1956)
  42. Mariano Rivera (1995-Present) | Jerry Coleman (1949-1957)
  43. Jeff Nelson (1996-2000, 2003) | Tim Stoddard (1986-1988)
  44. Reggie Jackson (1977-1981) | Terry Whitfield (1975-1976)
  45. Cecil Fielder (1996-1997) | Chili Davis (1998-1999)
  46. Andy Pettitte (1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-Present) | Don Mattingly (1982-1983)
  47. Luis Arroyo (1960-1963) | Tom Sturdivant (1955-1959)
  48. Roy White (1965-1968) | Mike Torrez (1977)
  49. Ron Guidry (1975-1988) | Kerry Dineen (1975)
  50. Aaron Small (2005) | Dave Pagan (1973)
  51. Bernie Williams (1991-2006) | George McQuinn (1947)

Thanks to Eric at YankeeNumbers.com for his database of uniform numbers.

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