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?