Johan Santana, arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball for a period of time, is a strikeout machine, and is also the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 57.
Santana has played with the Twins (2000 through 2007) and the Mets (2008 and 2009 - through the '09 season obviously) during his ten year stint in the major leagues. During that time span, Santana has worn the jersey number 57 the entire time.
Santana has a 122-60 record (through '09), good enough for a career .670 winning percentage. Where his stats really shine though are in the strikeout column. Over 1,709.2 career innings pitched, Johan Santana has struck out 1,733 batters. Most impressive.
He also has a low 3.12 career ERA. In fact, he led his league in ERA three separate seasons (in 2004 and 2006 with the Twins - 2.61 and 2.77 ERAs respectively; and in 2008 with the Mets - 2.53 ERA).
Did you know.........Santana once played ball in the Houston Astros organization?
Johan Santana, arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball for a period of time, is a strikeout machine, and is also the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 57.
Mark Buehrle has worn the jersey number 56 throughout his career with the Chicago White Sox, and has performed remarkably well on the mound while doing so.
In ten MLB seasons (through the 2009 MLB season), Buehrle has won 135 games (he has a career .582 winning percentage). Buehrle has put up double digit numbers in the win column in each season he has pitched, save his rookie season, when he only started 3 games (but won 4).
Buehrle is an extremely durable pitcher, eating innings like they were cookies. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons he led the league in innings pitched (with 245.3 and 236.7 respectively).
During his career in the bigs, Buehrle has a career 3.80 ERA to go with 1,188 strikeouts.
Did you know.........Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game on July 23, 2009?
Orel Hershiser, who came up to the Major Leagues with the L.A. Dodgers in 1983 at the age of 24, is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the baseball jersey number 55.
When I first started contemplating this jersey number, the first MLB athlete who came to mind was Hideki Matsui. The 2009 World Series MVP is certainly one of the best to ever wear jersey number 55. But upon further investigation, and recollection, Orel Hershiser is the clear choice as the best MLB athlete to ever wear number 55.
Drafted by the L.A. Dodgers in 1979, Orel Hershiser didn't get his first MLB win until the age of 25 in 1984, when he went 11-8 with a 2.66 ERA for the year. He would go on to rack up wins the way that Dodger great Duke Snider racked up homers: prodigiously. After 18 MLB seasons, Hershiser would retire at the age of 41 with 204 games won. Some of his MLB career highlights:
- .864 winning percentage in 1985 (19-3 record, led league)
- 1988 league leader in wins (23)
- 2,014 career strikeouts
- 1988 NL Cy Young winner
- 1988 World Series MVP
- Twice led the NL in shutouts (1984 and 1988)
- 1988 NL leader in complete games
Did you know...............that Hershiser's nickname is "Bulldog"?
Rich Gossage, usually referred to by baseball fans as "Goose" Gossage, pitched well enough over his 22 years in Major League Baseball to earn him an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, and to be named as the best MLB athlete to ever wear the baseball jersey number 54.
Although Gossage played for nine different MLB teams, he is probably best known as a New York Yankee. (He wears a Yankee hat on his HOF plaque.) Gossage was a Yankee between the years of 1978 and 1983. His best year, statistically, as a Yankee is arguably 1983, when he won 13 games (as a reliever), had a 2.27 ERA, and 90 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched.
- 3-time AL Save Leader (1975, 1978 and 1980)
- 124 MLB wins
- 3.01 MLB ERA
- 310 MLB saves
- 1502 MLB strikeouts
Gossage started his career in Major League Baseball at 20 years old, and had a 7-1 record as a rookie.
Did you know.......that although Gossage played for nine different MLB teams over 22 seasons, he wore jersey number 54 every year?
Drysdale broke into Major League Baseball at the tender age of 19, with the Bums of Brooklyn (otherwise known as the Brooklyn Dodgers), in 1956. He would play for Brooklyn for two seasons before that franchise packed up and moved west to L.A., where Drysdale would continue to play through the 1969 season (his 14th).
Don Drysdale racked up some impressive stats and accolades during his major league career.
- 1962 Cy Young Winner (he won 25 games that year with a 2.83 ERA
- 3-time NL Strikeout King
- 49 career shutouts
- 209 career wins
- 2.95 career ERA
- 2-time 20 game winner
- Batted .300 in 1965 (in 130 at-bats)
- 29 career home runs hit
- 1984 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee
Best NBA Number 53
Best NHL Number 53
Best NFL Number 53
C.C. Sabathia wears a baseball jersey number that isn't commonly worn by superstars in major league baseball. That doesn't mean that he hasn't earned the honor of being the best MLB athlete to ever wear the baseball jersey number 52.
In nine years of major league baseball (through 2009), Sabathia has proven himself to be one of the elite starting pitchers in the bigs. Indians fans must have been cringing when Sabathia was sent to the Brewers. And Yankee fans were smiling ear to ear when their team won the 2009 World Series with Sabathia as their number one ace on the mound.
(All career stats referenced are through the 2009 MLB season). During his nine year career, Sabathia has played in 288 games and was the starting pitcher in all 288 games. He's put up a stellar .627 winning percentage (with 136 total wins), paired with a fairly low 3.62 career ERA.
Sabathia isn't a strikeout machine, but he has whiffed a respectable 1,590 batters in 1,889.1 innings pitched. To see more C.C. Sabathia stats visit www.baseball-almanac.com.
Did you know......C.C. Sabathia is 6 feet, 7 inches tall?
Get your number 52 C.C. Sabathia jersey here.
Randy Johnson is the pick for the best overall professional athlete to wear the jersey number 51, not just the MLB jersey number 51. It's interesting how popular the number 51 is with some of the top athletes in sports. In baseball alone, you have a beloved Yankee, one of the games best closers, and one of the games best hitters ever who all have worn jersey number 51.
RJ's stats over an impressive career in Major League Baseball give him the nod over the other great athletes who could be considered here. If you aren't familiar with Johnson's impressive career pitching stats, check out the post on why he's the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 51.
Sid "El Sid" Fernandez is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 50. You probably knew that Sid Fernandez was one of the New York Mets best pitchers and a key component of their 1986 Championship season team. But have you taken a look at his career pitching stats? They are high caliber for sure.
114 career wins
.543 career winning percentage
3.36 lifetime ERA
1743 career strikeouts in 1866.2 career innings pitched (with only 715 career walks)
1989 League Win-Loss percentage leader (.737)
1985 Strikeouts per 9 Innings Pitched leader (9.511)
In 1985, at age 22, Fernandez started 26 games. Although the win column showed only nine for El Sid that year, his other stats showed a far more phenomenal pitching performance. He had 180 strikeouts in 170.1 innings pitched and a 2.80 ERA. In subsequent seasons where he was the starting pitcher in 30 or more games for the season, Fernandez twice had a sub-3 ERA (in 1989 he had 2.83 ERA in 32 GS, and in 1992 he had a 2.73 ERA in 32 GS; he also had a 3.03 ERA in 31 GS in 1988 and a 2.93 ERA in 18 GS in 1993.
Hailing from Honolulu, Hawaii, according to the Wikipedia entry for Sid Fernandez, he wore the baseball jersey number 50 in honor of his home state, the 50th in the Union.
Did you know that Fernandez's given first name is Charles, not Sid?
To see the pick for the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 50, click here.
(credits: Wikipedia, baseball-reference.com)
Shocking many of his fans no doubt, LeBron James announced that he will no longer wear the jersey number 23. In homage to Michael Jordan, LeBron will change his jersey number from number 23 to number 6 after this season. LeBron believes, as do many Bulls fans most likely, that Michael Jordan's jersey number 23 should be retired due to his contributions to the NBA. LeBron might want to pick another jersey number than 6, based on that reasoning. There was another NBA Hall of Famer that had a monumental impact on the league who wore number 6. That player is also our pick for the best athlete to ever wear the jersey number 6.
If your baseball jersey number is retired by the New York Yankees, it should be listed on this site. But that's not the case for all uniform numbers. It is for "Gator" Ron Guidry though.
Check out some of Guidry's MLB pitching stats here, and see why he's also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 49.
But the eight time gold glove winner isn't too bad with the stick either. He's racked up more than 1,300 hits and over 210 homers over his 12 MLB seasons.
You know Glavine was a great MLB pitcher. But did you know that he was drafted by the Kings of the NHL in 1984? Yeah, he was. He's probably a really good golfer too. But that's not why he's listed here. He's listed here because he was the best MLB athlete to ever wear the number 47.
He is a Hall of Famer to be, and a member of the 300 win club. A career 3.54 ERA and 2,607 strikeouts over 22 seasons don't hurt either. He also led the National League in wins an impressive five times.
See more about Tom Glavine's impressive career MLB stats here.
He's also the best professional athlete to ever wear the uniform number 46, so you'd kinda guess he'd be the best MLB athlete to wear uni number 46, yes? Well, he is, and here's why. And no, I am not a Yankees fan.
Yes, Pedro Martinez IS the best MLB athlete to ever wear the uniform number 45. Don't get me wrong here. Bob Gibson was an awesome pitcher. One of the best ever. But do you remember how good Pedro was in his heydey? Do you? Do you remember how he dominated hitters with his fastball? Although Pedro's stats need to be adjusted a tad since this post was written, take a look at the comparison between Pedro's stats and Gibson's stats here. Real close, but the edge goes to Pedro.
Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey could also be considered at this number, but there really is no other choice for the best MLB athlete to wear the uniform number 44 than Mr. Hank Aaron.
- 755 career homers
- .305 career batting average
- 2,297 career RBI
- 3,771 career hits
- 6,856 career total bases (#1 all-time)
Hank Aaron was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Did you know.........that Hank Aaron's uniform number 44 has been retired by both the Braves and the Brewers?
However, while some identify Mr. Petty with 43, there is ZERO doubt that Dennis Eckersley is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 43.
You know who the best MLB athlete to ever wear the number 42 is. You also know that Jackie Robinson probably could have played pro football if he wanted to. Instead, he broke the color line in Major League Baseball. He is the best athlete ever to wear the number 42. Hands down. Check out my post on why he's the best number 42 athlete of all time.
Not only the best MLB athlete, but the best Professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 41 is Tom Seaver.
Seaver, who spent most of his career with the New York Mets, is generally considered one of the best starting pitchers to ever take to an MLB mound. He began his major league career with the statistics to support his expectation as a pitching phenom. During his rookie season he racked up 16 wins, 170 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched, and a 2.76 ERA to go with 2 shutouts. Not too bad for a rookie, huh?
He only followed that rookie season with one in which he again won 16 games but this time with a 2.20 ERA, 5 shutouts and 205 strikeouts in 277.2 innings pitched.
Seaver would continue to keep a miniscule ERA each season while racking up the strikeouts and wins. His highest season win total was 25 games in 1969 (the year the Mets first won it all), best season ERA was in 1971 when he had a tiny 1.76 ERA, and his best season for strikeouts was again in 1971 when he racked up 289.
For his career, he put up the following numbers:
- 311 wins
- 2.86 ERA
- 3,640 strikeouts
- 61 shutouts
- 1 World Series championship
- 1 Save
- He wore the jersey number 41 for his entire career with the Mets, Reds, White Sox and Red Sox.
Did you know.......that Seaver's number 41 has been retired by the Mets?
- 352 career saves through 2008 season
- 3.12 career ERA through 2008 season
- 774 strikeouts in 697.1 innings pitched
- 42 save season in 1998 with the Angels
- 3 World Series saves in 3 games and 3 innings pitched
Did you know.....Percival is currently 8th on the all-time career save leaders list?
Campy would go on to prove himself not only worthy of major league level play, but of Hall of Fame honor, being inducted into the Hall in 1969.
Playing for the Dodgers between the years of 1948 and 1957, Campanella put up some big numbers.
- 242 career home runs
- .276 career batting average
- 856 career RBI
- 3-time NL MVP (1951, 1953 and 1955)
- 8-time All Star
Campanella's career was cut short by an automobile accident, otherwise his numbers and accolades would have been even greater.
Did you know.........Roy Campanella's jersey number 39 has been retired by the Dodgers?
- 3,116 strikeouts
- 216 wins
- 3 World Series Championships
- 1 World Series MVP
- 20 shutouts
- 11 post-season wins and 4 World Series wins
- #1 Win-Loss percentage in the A.L. in 2004
- Twice the N.L. Strikeout Leader (1997, 1998)
Did you know.....that Schilling ended his MLB career with the Red Sox, started his MLB career with the Orioles, but was initially drafted by the Red Sox in the 1986 amateur draft?
Many people associate Keith Hernandez with the number 17, especially if they are a Mets fan. You have to remember though, that Hernandez played with the Cardinals between the years of 1974 to 1983, and for most of that period, he wore the jersey number 37.
Hernandez was very good at the plate. He had a .296 career batting average and 162 career home runs. But, he was phenomenal in the field. He won the Gold Glove award at first base for every year between 1978 and 1988. Impressive. Hernandez' career fielding percentage was .994 with only 115 errors in 19.591 chances.
He was a member of two World Series Championship teams: the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1986 New York Mets. He had 2,182 hits in his career and had more walks than he did strikeouts.
Did you know......that Hernandez was taken in the 42nd round of the 1971 amateur draft by the Cardinals?
Robin Roberts is not only one of the greatest Philadelphia Phillies ever, he's also one of the best MLB pitchers ever to take to the mound.
With an MLB career spanning the years of 1948 through 1966, Roberts played predominantly with the Phils, but also briefly with the Orioles, Astros and Cubs. During that time span, he amassed 286 career wins and 2,357 strikeouts. His career ERA was a very respectable 3.41.
The years of 1950 through 1955 were a bright spot in Roberts pitching career. During that time, he led the league in wins four times, led the league in strikeouts twice, made six All-Star teams (seven if you include the year of 1956), and led the league in shutouts in 1950.
Did you know......Robert's number 36 has been retired by the Phillies?
Frank Thomas, who played most of his career with the Chicago White Sox, but also spent time with the A's and Blue Jays, sported number 35 every year (even if some years it was in addition to other numbers) and is the best MLB athlete to ever wear that number.
Over a 19 year career, Thomas smacked 521 homers, 1,704 RBI, 2,468 hits and batted a career .301.
Thomas was taken by the Sox with the 7th pick in the 1989 amateur baseball draft. The hulking first baseman out of Auburn University quickly made an impact in the major leagues. In 1990, with 191 at-bats, Thomas batted .330 with seven dingers. Playing full time in his sophomore MLB season, he would smack 32 dingers.
Thomas would continue to put up double digit numbers in the home run category, through 2007, for each season that he was healthy enough to play the majority of the year. His peak season came in 2000, when he would knock 43 over the fence with 143 RBI and a .328 batting average.
Did you know......Frank Thomas' nickname is "The Big Hurt"?
He also wore 30 for several years, but he started out in 1966 wearing number 34 for the New York Mets (yes, remember, he played for them and won a World Series with them), and wore 34 from 1980 through 1993 with the Astros and Rangers. That qualifies Nolan Ryan to be the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 34.
Okay, you know that Nolan Ryan is one of the best pitchers to ever take to the hill. But....just in case you forgot, here are some his stats that back it up.
- 7 career no-hitters
- 5,714 career strikeouts (currently number 1 all-time)
- 324 career wins
- 3.19 career ERA
- 341 strikeouts in 1977
Did you know.....that Nolan Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 (along with Orlando Cepeda)?
Playing 21 seasons of Major League Baseball, and earning an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, Eddie Murray is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 33.
Murray was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1977, playing with the Baltimore Orioles. He played in 160 games as a young rookie, smacking 27 homers that year. He would reach double digits in home runs for each of the next 19 seasons. That consistency allowed Murray to reach 504 career total home runs. He coupled that with a career .287 batting average and 1,917 career RBI.
Did you know......that Murray played six games at third base during his career?
This one was a tough decision. Two players could be considered for the best MLB athlete to ever wear the number 31. If you are going by the best all-around athlete, I'd give it to Dave Winfield. (He was, after all, drafted by four professional sports teams). However, for the best MLB athlete, going by the best statistics and impact on the game of baseball on the field, I give it to Mike Piazza.
Mike Piazza is often considered the best hitting catcher ever in major league baseball. Piazza's career batting average was .308. His best years, by batting average, are as follows:
- .362 in 1997
- .348 in 1998
- .346 in 1995
- .336 in 1996
- .324 in 2000
As you probably know, Piazza also had quite a bit of power, in addition to being able to hit for average. He had 427 career home runs, and twice reached 40 single season homers (1997 and 1999).
Did you know.......Mike Piazza was the 1,390th pick in the 1988 MLB amateur draft?
This is a fairly tough number to pick the best MLB athlete for. Nolan Ryan wore the number 30 and he would obviously be the prime pick. However......he wore the number 30 only from 1968 through 1979. The rest of his career, ending in 1993, was spent wearing the number 34. So, with it being said that he is one of the best pitchers ever, and that he wore number 30 for some of his career, we will not list him as the best MLB athlete to ever wear number 30.
Orlando Cepeda gets the nod for the best MLB athlete to ever wear number 30. Cepeda wore number 30 for the majority of his career, spanning the years 1958 through 1974. (He also wore numbers 28, 20, 12 and 25, each for no more than one season).
Cepeda, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame just before the end of the previous millennium, put up some impressive batting statistics over his 17 MLB seasons.
- .297 career batting avg.
- 379 career home runs
- 2,351 hits
- 1,365 career RBI
- 1958 NL ROY
- 1967 NL MVP
- 1961 NL Home Run King (46)
- Led NL in RBI in 1961 and 1967
- 1999 Hall of Fame Inductee
Did you know.......that one of Orlando Cepeda's nicknames was "Cha Cha"?
As Adam Sandler put it in his famous song, ".....Hall of Famer, Rod Carew. He converted." In my opinion, this guy does not get the publicity and acclaim that he deservers. Carew was easily one of the best hitters to ever play the game and certainly the best to ever wear the jersey number 29.
- 7-time AL Batting Champ
- Batted .388 in 1977
- Batted over .300 in 15 different seasons
- 18-time All-Star
- 1977 AL MVP
- Lead AL in hits in 1973, '74 and '77
- 353 career stolen bases
- 3,053 career hits
Did you know.....Rod Carew's number 29 jersey has been retired by the Twins and Angels?
This is a tough one, because it could have realistically gone to either Sparky Lyle or Bert Blyleven. You can only pick one though. Over a career spanning 22 years, Bert Blyleven pitched for the Twins (in two separate stints,) the Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. Over those years he put up some terrific numbers and wore the number 28 while doing so, for most of them. He only wore the number 22 while with the Pirates from 1978 to 1980.
- 287 career wins
- 3701 career strikeouts
- 3.31 career ERA
- 4 post-season wins
Blyleven's longevity may be attributed to his early start in the majors. He played his first major league game when he was only 19.
Did you know....Bert was born in the Netherlands?
It seems like many of the best professional athletes to ever wear numbers in the 20s come from the sports of baseball. This is true for Juan Marichal. See our post on why he's the best to wear 27, in any sport, here.
He wore number 12 while winning a World Series with the Yankees and playing with the Devil Rays. Most people remember him however, for wearing the number 26 while playing in Fenway for the Boston Red Sox. Another one of the best pure hitters, like Mattingly, to ever play the game. He is also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 26.
Although he wore the jersey number 24 while with the Pirates, he wore the jersey number 25 for the lion's share of his career, spent with the San Francisco Giants. Bonds is also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 25. See the post here.
The best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 24, is also the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 24, Mr. Willie Mays. Check out the post on why Willie is the best to ever wear the number 24 here.
Another one-team career man, Don Mattingly, is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the number 23.
Mattingly, whose career spanned 14 seasons with the New York Yankees, was one of the best pure hitters to ever play the game. In only his third season in the major leagues, Mattingly batted .343 with 23 homers and 110 RBI. The following year, his batting average dropped to "only" .324 but his power numbers improved with 35 homers and 145 RBI. That was good enough for the 1985 AL MVP award.
Mattingly's career was slowed by a back injury, otherwise he would certainly be in the Hall of Fame.
- 9 time AL Gold Glove winner
- .307 career batting average
- 222 career home runs
- 2,153 career hits
- 1,099 career RBI
- 6-time All Star
Did you know......Mattingly's jersey number 23 has been retired by the New York Yankees?
A Baltimore Oriole for his entire 19 year career, Jim Palmer is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 22.
Palmer won more than 20 games eight separate times during his MLB career. His high mark in wins came in 1975 when he put up 23 to go along with a 2.09 ERA. Palmer put up the following career marks during his 19 years in the bigs.
- 268 wins
- 2.68 ERA
- 2,212 strikeouts
- 53 shutouts
- 211 complete games
- 3 time Cy Young Award winner (1973, 1975 and 1976)
- 3 time World Series champion
Jim Palmer was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Did you know.......Palmer's jersey number 22 has been retired by the Baltimore Orioles?
Roberto Clemente is not only the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 21, he is also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 21. Check out the post on why he's the best professional athlete to ever wear number 21 here.
Several good choices for the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 20. But you can only pick one right? My pick is Frank Robinson.
Frank Robinson played 21 seasons in the major leagues, spent primarily with the Reds and Orioles. Over those 21 seasons in the bigs, Robinson achieved the following.
- .294 career batting average
- 586 career home runs
- 2,943 career hits
- 1956 NL Rookie of the Year
- 1961 NL MVP
- 1966 AL MVP
- 1966 AL Triple Crown
- Lead league in intentional walks, 1961 to 1964
- 12 time All-Star
He is also noted as the first black manager in MLB history, in 1975 for the Cleveland Indians.
Did you know......that Robinson's jersey number 20 has been retired by both the Reds and the Orioles?
Tony Gwynn, a 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, is the best MLB athlete to ever wear the jersey number 19.
Gwynn, who played his entire big league career with the San Diego Padres, was one of the best hitters to ever step into a batter's box. While playing between the years of 1982 through 2001, Gwynn accumulated the following accolades.
- .338 career batting average
- 3,141 career hits
- 8-time NL batting leader
- 7-time Silver Slugger
- 5-time Gold Glove winner
- 15-time All Star
- .394 season average in 1994
Did you know......Tony's son is also a major league baseball player?
- .298 career batting average
- 279 career home runs
- 1954 home run champ (49)
- 1955 hits champ (192)
1954 was his best offensive season, when he batted .326 with 49 home runs and 141 RBI. He wound up second in the MVP voting that year. Kluszewski's jersey number 18 retired by the Reds.
Dizzy Dean pitched for 12 years in the majors, primarily with the St. Louis Cardinals, but also with the Chicago Cubs, and extremely briefly with the St. Louis Browns. Dean would play his first full season in the majors in 1932 at the age of 22 when he put together an 18 and 15 record. He pitched a strong 286 innings with 191 strikeouts that year.
He would continue to be a dominant right-handed pitcher the next four years, winning 20 or more games in each year. In 1934 he would put up a phenomenal record of 30 wins and only 7 losses.
- Led NL in strikeouts four straight years (1932 to 1935)
- Two time NL wins leader (1934 and 1935)
- 1934 NL MVP
- .644 career winning percentage
- 1,163 career strikeouts
- 154 complete games
- 26 career shutouts
Did you know.......Dizzy Dean's jersey number 17 has been retired by the St. Louis Cardinals?