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The Greatest MLB Players of All Time to Wear Each Number from 1 to 50

Doug MeadCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2016

The Greatest MLB Players of All Time to Wear Each Number from 1 to 50

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    It's all in the numbers—at least in Major League Baseball.

    Baseball just may be the one sport where numbers don't lie. It's a sport ruled by statistics and now by sabermetric numbers as well.

    But in the case of this particular presentation, we're talking about a different kind of number—jersey numbers, to be precise.

    The best of the best in baseball generally have their jersey numbers retired due to their greatness on the field. Those numbers are revered in perpetuity for generations of fans. Years from now, fathers and grandfathers alike will boast of the numbers put up by the players who wore their favorite numbers.

    Here is a look at the best MLB players in history as defined by their jersey numbers. For the purposes of this presentation, we will look at the body of work for each player while he was wearing that particular jersey number.

No. 0: Al Oliver

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    Since we didn't include the number zero in our title, we'll squeeze it in here.

    Al Oliver had already been in the major leagues for 10 seasons when he first donned the No. 0 for the Texas Rangers in 1978. Oliver started wearing it simply because his name starts with the letter "O."

    No matter—he wore the number proudly for the next eight years, winning a batting title with a .331 average in 1982 with the Montreal Expos while wearing the lowest number available.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Oddibe McDowell, who wore No. 0 for the first four years of his career with the Rangers (1985-1988).

No. 1: Ozzie Smith

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    The Wizard is the king of jersey No. 1 and the king of shortstops.

    No one in history could pick it with the glove quite like Ozzie Smith, who sported jersey No. 1 for his entire 19-year career with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals.

    Smith earned 13 Gold Glove awards during his career along with 15 All-Star selections.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Pee Wee Reese proudly represented the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for 16 seasons, helping to pave the way for Jackie Robinson during his first season in 1947.

No. 2: Derek Jeter

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    By the time all is said and done, shortstop Derek Jeter could well end up in the top five all-time in career hits and will be remembered one the best players in the history of the New York Yankees.

    Pretty heady stuff for the man who debuted as a fresh-faced, 20-year-old rookie back in late May 1995.

    Jeter has already done what every single player in Monument Park (Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, et al.) never accomplished: collect 3,000 hits in a Yankees uniform.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Charlie Gehringer didn't wear any numbers at all until the Detroit Tigers finally adorned their uniforms with digits in 1931. Gehringer won the batting title and MVP Award in 1937 while wearing No. 2.

No. 3: Babe Ruth

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    Is there really any question who the best MLB player is that ever wore jersey No. 3?

    It wasn't until 1929 that Babe Ruth started wearing No. 3, the first year MLB had teams featuring numbers of the back of jerseys (teams had experimented with numbers on sleeves prior to 1929).

    Even though Ruth only wore the No. 3 for seven seasons, he is still the most accomplished player in history to bear the number.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Jimmie Foxx wore the No. 3 for 12 seasons with the Philadelphia A's and Boston Red Sox.

    Harmon Killebrew also proudly wore No. 3 for 19 seasons with the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.

No. 4: Lou Gehrig

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    New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig wore the No. 4 with class, honor and distinction.

    Gehrig won two MVP Awards, captured a Triple Crown and led his Yankees to six World Series championships, not to mention setting a longstanding record for durability with his 2,130 consecutive games played.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Paul Molitor, who finished his 21-year career with 3,319 hits, good for ninth all-time.

No. 5: Joe DiMaggio

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    It's starting to look like a list top-heavy with New York Yankees greats, but it would certainly be hard to argue No. 2 through 4.

    It would also be hard to argue against Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio at No. 5.

    Three AL MVP Awards, the longest hitting streak in the history of Major League Baseball, a .325 average and an All-Star selection for every year of his career are pretty good reasons why Joe DiMaggio is tops on this list.

     

    Honorable Mention

    By the time all is said and done, Albert Pujols could replace DiMaggio on this list. However, he has a ways to go before matching DiMaggio's nine World Series titles.

    Hank Greenberg hit 319 home runs wearing the No. 5 with the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Jeff Bagwell wore No. 5 for his entire 15-year career with the Houston Astros.

    Johnny Bench, the Hall of Fame catcher, swatted 389 home runs during his 17-year career with the Cincinnati Reds.

    George Brett also deserves mention here as well, the greatest player in the history of the Kansas City Royals and a deserving member of the Hall of Fame.

No. 6: Stan Musial

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    Stan Musial was an absolute dream as a player for the St. Louis Cardinals and one of the classiest gentlemen in the history of the sport.

    Musial was selected to 24 All-Star teams, won three NL MVP awards, hit .331 for his career and finished with 3,630 hits, fourth-most all-time.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Nicknamed Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline proudly wore the No. 6 for 21 years with the Detroit Tigers, finishing his career with 3,007 hits overall and a Hall of Fame selection.

No. 7: Mickey Mantle

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    If knee injuries hadn't slowed him down, who knows what New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle really could have accomplished?

    Even with balky knees, Mantle led his Yankees to seven World Series championships, winning three AL MVP Awards, hitting 536 home runs and earning 20 All-Star selections.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Craig Biggio collected 3,060 hits during his 20 seasons with the Houston Astros.

No. 8: Cal Ripken

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    This may have been one of the toughest jersey numbers to judge, as a number of great players in history have worn No. 8 with honor.

    Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played is likely a record that will never be broken. In 1995, he almost single-handedly restored fans' interest in baseball after a protracted strike while chasing Lou Gehrig's longstanding record.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Stargell, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Gary Carter and Joe Morgan are all players worthy of selection.

No. 9: Ted Williams

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    Considered one of the greatest hitters who ever lived, Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams was the easy selection as the greatest player ever to wear No. 9.

    Williams hit 521 home runs in a career that was interrupted by four-and-a-half years of military service during his prime.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Reggie Jackson wore No. 9 for nine of his 21 seasons with the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles.

    Roger Maris also wore No. 9 for the last nine years of his career, most notably in 1961, when he swatted a then-record 61 home runs for the New York Yankees.

No. 10: Chipper Jones

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    Another very tough number to consider.

    Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones gets the nod over Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson.

    Jones will retire at the end of this season after 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, a career batting average right around the .303 level, eight All-Star appearances, an MVP Award and a batting title.

    Cooperstown should be his next destination.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Dawson, who during his Hall of Fame career hit 438 home runs, also won an MVP Award and captured seven Gold Glove awards.

No. 11: Paul Waner

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    Part of the famed Waner brothers duet for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Paul Waner put together a spectacular 20-year career, 15 of them in the Steel City.

    Waner collected 3,152 hits along with a .333 lifetime batting average. Although he only wore No. 11 for eight seasons, Waner's career numbers alone have him at the top of this list.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Barry Larkin's No. 11 was retired on Saturday by the Cincinnati Reds, just one month after he was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

No. 12: Roberto Alomar

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    Easily one of the slickest-fielding second basemen in the history of baseball, Roberto Alomar wore the No. 12 with style and panache for 16 seasons.

    Picking up 10 Gold Glove awards and 12 All-Star selections along the way, Alomar was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2011, and his No. 12 jersey was retired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the same year, making his number the only jersey retired by the Jays other than Jackie Robinson's.

No. 13: Alex Rodriguez

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    Alex Rodriguez first donned the No. 13 for the New York Yankees in 2004 after wearing No. 3 for the first 10 years of his career.

    In that jersey, A-Rod has won two AL MVP Awards, two home run titles, three Silver Slugger awards and seven All-Star selections.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Although Omar Vizquel is now wearing No. 17 for the Toronto Blue Jays, the shortstop wore the unlucky No. 13 for 21 of his 24 seasons in Major League Baseball.

    The winner of 11 Gold Glove awards during his career, Vizquel will go down as one of the finest-fielding shortstops in history when his career ends following the 2012 season.

No. 14: Pete Rose

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    Say what you want about his gambling habits and his permanent ban from baseball—there is still no question Pete Rose belongs at the top of this list.

    With 4,256 hits in 3,562 games played and 14,053 at-bats, Rose owns the all-time record for all three categories.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Ernie Banks donned the No. 14 for his entire 19-year career with the Chicago Cubs, hitting 511 home runs and earning the name Mr. Cub.

No. 15: Thurman Munson

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    For 11 seasons, catcher Thurman Munson was the heart and soul of the New York Yankees who guided his team simply by leading by example.

    While a plane accident ended his life in the prime of his career, Munson had already established himself as one of the greats in Yankees history. Following his death, his No. 15 was immediately retired by owner George Steinbrenner.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Dick Allen wore No. 15 for 13 seasons, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award and AL MVP Award while donning the jersey.

No. 16: Whitey Ford

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    From 1953 to 1967, Whitey Ford wore No. 16 for the New York Yankees, winning 227 games during that time.

    Ford helped the Yankees to six World Series championships and won the Cy Young Award in 1961. He is the all-time leader with 10 wins in World Series play to go along with other World Series records for innings pitched, strikeouts and games started.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Hal Newhouser spent 15 of his 17 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, winning back-to-back AL MVP Awards in 1944 and 1945 and leading his Tigers to a World Series title in 1945.

No. 17: Dizzy Dean

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    During the height of his career between 1932 and 1937, there simply was no better pitcher in the National League than St. Louis Cardinal right-hander Dizzy Dean.

    Dean's remarkable run between 1934 and 1936 alone was incredible, collecting 82 wins, an MVP Award and two runner-up MVP Award finishes. Dean's 30 wins in 1934 represents the last time a pitcher reached that figure in the National League.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Todd Helton has played his entire 16-year career with the Colorado Rockies. Helton has been named to five All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Glove awards and captured the NL batting title in 2000.

No. 18: Moises Alou

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    The Alou family had some pretty solid baseball genes, with a trio of brothers starring in the same outfield for the San Francisco Giants in 1963.

    One of their offspring turned out to be pretty fantastic as well.

    Moises Alou, son of Felipe, wore the No. 18 jersey for almost all of his 17-year career in the majors with the Pirates, Expos, Marlins, Astros, Cubs, Giants and Mets.

    Alou ended his career with a lifetime .303 average, 332 home runs and six All-Star selections, helping the Marlins win a World Series title in 1997.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Mel Harder posted a 223-186 record in 20 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, wearing the No. 18 jersey for the final 18 years of his career.

No. 19: Robin Yount

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    With an incredible 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, Robin Yount narrowly beats out Bob Feller on this list.

    Yount captured two AL MVP Awards during his career, only one of four players in history to capture the honors while playing different positions (Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez). Yount retired with 3,142 hits, and his jersey was retired by the Brewers in 1994, one year after his retirement.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Rapid Robert Feller wore No. 19 for the final 15 seasons of his career with the Cleveland Indians and would have easily eclipsed the 300-win mark if not for serving three years in World War II.

No. 20: Mike Schmidt

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    During his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Michael Jack Schmidt could literally do it all.

    Schmidt won 10 Gold Glove awards during his 18 years with the Phillies and is generally regarded as one of the top-fielding third basemen in baseball history.

    But it was with the bat that Schmidt did his most damage, slugging 548 career home runs, winning three NL MVP Award trophies and earning selection to 12 All-Star teams.

    Schmidt's No. 20 was retired by the Phillies in 1990, the year following his retirement.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Frank Robinson and Schmidt could really be co-recipients at the top of this list. The nod went to Schmidt because of his complete dominance defensively.

    But Robinson was no slouch either as the only player in MLB history to win the MVP Award in both leagues and a Triple Crown winner in 1966 while leading the Baltimore Orioles to the World Series title the same year.

No. 21: Roberto Clemente

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    For Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clements, the numbers speak for themselves.

    Clemente totaled exactly 3,000 hits, the last one collected just three months before his tragic death in a plane accident while carrying relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

    Clemente also won 12 Gold Glove awards, was highly regarded as one of the greatest-fielding outfielders of his generation and was a man with a cannon for an arm.

     

    Honorable Mentions

    Roger Clemens wore No. 21 for the first 15 years of his career with both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, earning five Cy Young awards during that time along with 233 of his 354 overall wins.

    Sammy Sosa slugged 581 home runs for the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers while wearing the No. 21, winning the NL MVP Award in 1998.

No. 22: Jim Palmer

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    For Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, excellence on the mound was the trademark he left behind.

    For 19 years, Palmer proudly wore the No. 22 on the back of his jersey, winning 268 games along the way. Palmer collected three Cy Young awards and finished in the top three in Cy Young award balloting three other times as well.

    Palmer also helped his Orioles capture six American League pennants and three World Series titles.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Roger Clemens won two of his seven Cy Young awards wearing the No. 22, first with the New York Yankees and later with the Houston Astros.

No. 23: Ryne Sandberg

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    Throughout his entire 15 years as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Ryne Sandberg was as good a second baseman as there ever was, both offensively and defensively.

    Sandberg earned the NL MVP Award in 1984, propelling his Cubs into the postseason and falling just one win short of the World Series in a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS.

    Sandberg dominated the game defensively as well, winning nine straight Gold Glove awards from 1983 to 1991. His jersey No. 23 was retired by the Cubs in 2005.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Kirk Gibson swatted 237 home runs in 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers wearing the No. 23. His home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series forever cemented him in Dodgers lore as well.

No. 24: Willie Mays

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    The Say Hey Kid absolutely tops this list.

    With apologies to Rickey Henderson, who will always be remembered as one of the greatest leadoff hitters and stolen base threats of all time, Willie Mays was simply one of the best ever to play the game.

    With 660 lifetime home runs, 12 straight Gold Glove awards, two MVP Awards, 24 All-Star selections and four stolen base titles, there was literally nothing Mays couldn't do on the field.

    Mays is one of the only players ever to have his jersey number retired while still actively playing—the San Francisco Giants honoring Mays shortly after his trade to the New York Mets in 1972.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Obviously, the aforementioned Henderson is worthy as well. Henderson wore other numbers during his career, but he is most fondly remembered donning the No. 24.

    Throughout his years with the Seattle Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. flashed the glove and bat almost like his jersey counterpart Mays. Griffey won the 1997 AL MVP and 10 straight Gold Glove awards as a member of the Mariners.

No. 25: Barry Bonds

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    When Barry Bonds joined the San Francisco Giants as a free agent in 1993, his godfather, Willie Mays, offered to let Bonds wear his retired No. 24 jersey. Bonds graciously turned his offer down, choosing instead to wear No. 25, the number worn by his father Bobby Bonds during his playing days with the Giants.

    Bonds would go on to hit 586 home runs as a Giant, capturing five MVP Awards and setting the single-season and all-time home run marks before retiring in 2007.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Mark McGwire wore the No. 25 throughout his entire 16-year career with the Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals, finishing 10th all-time with 583 home runs.

No. 26: Wade Boggs

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    Throughout the first 11 years of his career with the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs was an absolute hitting machine.

    Boggs was the only player in the 20th century to have seven consecutive seasons of at least 200 hits, winning five AL batting titles along the way as well. His standard of hitting excellence was unmatched in the American League for much of the 1980s.

     

    Honorable Mention

    For 14 seasons, Boog Powell represented both the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians while wearing No. 26. Powell won two World Series rings as a key offensive contributor for the O's in 1966 and 1970.

No. 27: Vladimir Guerrero

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    This was another close one, but overall I had to give the nod to right fielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero.

    Throughout his 16-year career, Guerrero never saw a pitch he didn't like, yet he hit just about everything thrown his way regardless of its location.

    Guerrero could hit for average as well as power, batting .318 with 449 lifetime home runs through the 2011 season. Guerrero also captured the AL MVP Award in his first year with the Anaheim Angels in 2004.

    Amazingly, despite Guerrero's free-wheeling style at the plate, he never once struck out 100 times in any one season.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Juan Marichal dominated for the San Francisco Giants throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, winning 238 games in 13 seasons with nine All-Star appearances.

No. 28: Bert Blyleven

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    In 2011, pitcher Bert Blyleven was finally inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in his 14th year of eligibility, a long time coming for the right-hander who won 287 games during his 22-year career.

    Blyleven won 149 games alone as a member of the Minnesota Twins wearing the No. 28, rejoining the team in 1985 and helping them to win their first-ever World Series championship two years later.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Sparky Lyle won a Cy Young Award out of the bullpen for the New York Yankees in 1977 wearing No. 28.

No. 29: Rod Carew

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    Hall of Fame second baseman/first baseman Rod Carew was born to hit, and hit he did for his entire 19-year career with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels.

    The Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1967, Carew would win seven AL batting titles in all while a member of the Twins, adding an MVP Award to his credit in 1977. Carew would end his career with 3,053 hits and a .328 lifetime batting average.

    Carew's No. 29 jersey was retired by the Twins in 1987 and by the Angels in 1986.

     

    Honorable Mention

    John Smoltz was the only man ever to win at least 200 games and save another 150. Smoltz had his jersey retired by the Atlanta Braves on June 8, 2012.

No. 30: Nolan Ryan

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    This is one of those numbers where no one else even comes close.

    Nolan Ryan, baseball's all-time strikeout king, wore No. 30 for both the New York Mets and California Angels from 1968 to 1979. During his time with the Angels, Ryan threw four no-hitters and set MLB's all-time single-season strikeout record in 1973.

    Ryan's jersey No. 30 was retired by the Angels in 1992.

No. 31: Greg Maddux

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    For the first 21 years of his fabulous career, Greg Maddux wore No. 31 for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

    Maddux collected 327 of his 355 total wins with the two clubs, winning four NL Cy Young awards with the Braves, and is highly regarded as one of the best control pitchers in Major League Baseball history.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Mike Piazza is a very close second to Maddux, wearing No. 31 for all but two of his 16 seasons.

No. 32: Steve Carlton/Sandy Koufax

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    Honestly, there was no way in the world I was going to decide between two of the greatest left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball history.

    Both Steve Carlton and Sandy Koufax are worthy of this honor. Carlton won 329 games along with four Cy Young Awards, while Koufax put together one of the most dominating five-year stretches in MLB history from 1962 to 1966 before retiring at the age of 30.

    Koufax's five-year stretch included three Cy Young Awards and four no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game.

    Call me a wuss, but both are deserving of this honor.

No. 33: Eddie Murray

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    Only four players in Major League Baseball history have ever totaled at least 3,000 hits with 500 home runs, and switch-hitter Eddie Murray is one of them.

    The second-best switch-hitter ever behind Mickey Mantle, Murray was a key contributor for the Baltimore Orioles' pennant-winning teams in 1979 and 1983, winning a World Series title in 1983.

    Murray's No. 33 was retired by the Orioles in 1998.

No. 34: Kirby Puckett

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    Although his career was cut short by glaucoma after only 12 seasons, the Minnesota Twins center fielder is the runaway winner as the best player ever to don the No. 34 jersey.

    Puckett's contributions to the Twins literally couldn't possibly be fully quantified. A 10-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove Award winner, Puckett did it all for the Twins, including winning a batting title in 1989.

    Puckett retired with a .318 lifetime average, and his No. 34 jersey was retired by the Twins in 1997.

     

    Honorable Mention

    When all is said and done, David Ortiz could well join other Sox players whose jersey numbers are now retired. Ortiz collected his 400th career home run earlier this season.

    Nolan Ryan also wore No. 34 while with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, collecting three of his seven no-hitters while wearing that number.

No. 35: Frank Thomas

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    Throughout his 19-year career, Frank Thomas earned the nickname "Big Hurt" simply by punishing the baseball.

    Thomas was one of the most feared hitters in the American League during the 1990s and early 2000s, finishing his career with 521 home runs and a .301 lifetime batting average. Thomas won back-to-back AL MVP Awards in 1993 and 1994.

    Thomas had his No. 35 retired by the Chicago White Sox in 2010.

     

    Honorable Mention

    When Mike Mussina won 20 games for the New York Yankees in 2008, he retired at the top of his game with 270 wins overall.

    Phil Niekro was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1997, having won 318 games in a career that spanned 24 seasons.

No. 36: Gaylord Perry

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    While he wore the No. 36 for eight different teams during his 22-year career, no one accomplished more in that number than right-handed pitcher and noted spitball thrower Gaylord Perry.

    Perry won 318 games during his career, earning two Cy Young Awards along the way. Perry won his two Cy Young trophies while playing in his first season with two separate teams—the Cleveland Indians in 1972 and the San Diego Padres in 1978.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Robin Roberts won 234 games in his 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, including six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1950 to 1955.

No. 37: Dave Stieb

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    During his 15 years with the Toronto Blue Jays, right-handed pitcher Dave Stieb set just about every notable pitching record in franchise history.

    Stieb is the all-time franchise leader in wins (175), strikeouts (1,658), complete games (103), innings pitched (2,873) and shutouts (30). Stieb also threw the first no-hitter in Blue Jays history in 1990.

    Stieb was a seven-time All-Star and The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award winner in 1982.

No. 38: Curt Schilling

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    Before retiring in 2008, Curt Schilling amassed 216 wins during his 20-year career. Schilling was the bridesmaid on three occasions in balloting for the Cy Young Award, including finishing runner-up in back-to-back seasons to Arizona Diamondbacks teammate Randy Johnson in 2001 and 2002.

    Schilling was a key contributor for two different franchises who went on to win a World Series championship, with the D-Backs in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.

No. 39: Roy Campanella

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    Another runaway winner on this list, Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella had already established himself as one of the greatest backstops of all time in the first 10 years of his career before he was paralyzed by a tragic car accident following the 1957 season.

    Campanella won three NL MVP Awards during the 1950s, earned eight All-Star selections and was a key contributor for the Dodgers as they captured their first and only World Series title in Brooklyn in 1955.

No. 40: Rick Sutcliffe

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    Pitcher Rick Sutcliffe wore the No. 40 for the last 11 seasons of his career, but it was in 1984 that he gained instant attention wearing the number for the first time.

    Following a midseason trade to the Chicago Cubs from the Cleveland Indians, Sutcliffe put together one of the best four-month stretches by a pitcher in Major League history.

    Sutcliffe went 16-1 for the Cubs in 20 starts, with a 2.69 ERA, seven complete games and three shutouts.

    Sutcliffe's amazing finish led to a unanimous selection as the NL Cy Young Award winner.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Bartolo Colon has worn No. 40 in 13 of his 15 major league seasons, including when he won the Cy Young Award in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels.

No. 41: Tom Seaver

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    Pitching for his entire 20-year career with the uniform jersey No. 41, Tom Seaver put together a career that rivaled few in major league history.

    Seaver won 318 games, including five 20-win seasons, three Cy Young Awards,12 All-Star appearances and a Rookie of the Year Award.

    Seaver even won 16 games as a 40-year-old with the Chicago White Sox in 1985.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Eddie Mathews hit 512 home runs in a 17-year career spent almost entirely with the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. Mathews formed a spectacular 3-4 hitting combo in the batting order with Hank Aaron, earning nine All-Star selections along the way.

No. 42: Jackie Robinson

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    Is there really any doubt who the greatest player ever to wear the No. 42 is?

    His number is retired by every single team in the majors, never to be worn again by anyone in history.

    That's the legacy Jackie Robinson left behind, breaking MLB's color barrier in 1947 and doing it with style, grace and dignity despite having racial epithets constantly hurled at him by fans and opposing players alike.

    Through it all, Robinson established himself as one of the game's greats, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and following up two years later with an MVP Award.

    Robinson's No. 42 was permanently retired for all teams by MLB in 1997. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the last current player to still wear the number.

No. 43: Dennis Eckersley

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    With the exception of his first three years with the Cleveland Indians, Dennis Eckersley donned No. 43, and with that number Eckersley transformed himself into one of the greatest closers of all time.

    Only two pitchers in baseball history have ever won 20 games and saved 50 games in separate seasons (John Smoltz), and Eckersley put it all together in 1992, winning both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards with a dominating season that produced 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA.

    Eckersley was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2004, and his number was retired by the Oakland Athletics in 2005.

No. 44: Hank Aaron

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    One of the biggest no-brainers on this list, Hank Aaron was the easy choice for jersey number 44.

    Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs, famously breaking the mark held by Babe Ruth with his 715th career home run on April 8, 1974.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Willie McCovey deserves a nod for representing the San Francisco Giants with greatness as well, swatting 521 home runs during his career and winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1959 and the NL MVP Award in 1969.

No. 45: Bob Gibson

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    Tough call with this one, considering another great right-hander also wore the number 45.

    With apologies to Pedro Martinez, however, the honor goes to St. Louis Cardinals standout pitcher Bob Gibson.

    Gibson was the preeminent pitcher during the decade of the 1960s, putting together one of the most remarkable seasons by a pitcher in MLB history in 1968, with a 22-9 record, a 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts and 268 strikeouts. His effort that year won him both the Cy Young and MVP awards.

    Gibson followed up with another Cy Young Award just two years later and would retire with 251 wins in 17 seasons. Gibson's number 45 was retired by the Cardinals in 1981.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Pedro Martinez actually pitched like Gibson for much of his career, dominating hitters in a spectacular stretch from 1997 to 2003. During that time, Martinez won three Cy Young Awards and finished in the top three on three other occasions.

No. 46: Lee Smith

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    I'm still not sure why Hall of Fame voters haven't yet felt that closer Lee Smith is worthy of induction into the hallowed halls, but he is worthy of selection on this list.

    Smith totaled 478 saves during his 18-year career, with seven All-Star selections and a career 3.03 ERA.

    Smith fell short once again for Hall of Fame induction in 2012, his 10th year of eligibility. Smith garnered only 50.6 percent of the vote, still far short of the 75 percent needed for inclusion.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Andy Pettitte has won 206 games wearing jersey number 46 for the New York Yankees, along with a postseason-record 18 wins in pinstripes.

No. 47: Tom Glavine

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    Wearing the number 47 for his entire 22-year career, Tom Glavine shined for the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

    Glavine won two Cy Young Awards along with five seasons of 20-plus wins during his heyday with the Braves, pitching alongside fellow greats Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.

    Glavine ended his career with 305 wins, and his number was retired by the Braves in 2010.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Jack Morris won 254 games in his 18 seasons, including pitching one of the most memorable games in World Series history in 1991.

No. 48: Torii Hunter

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    For the past 16 seasons, outfielder Torii Hunter has provided his fans with a highlight reel of catches during his time with the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels.

    Hunter has won nine Gold Glove awards during his career, with four All-Star selections as well. Offensively, Hunter hasn't been a slouch either, fast approaching 300 home runs and hitting .271 for his career.

No. 49: Ron Guidry

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    The man known as "Louisiana Lightning" tops this list, spending his entire 14-year career with the New York Yankees.

    Ron Guidry put together a season for the ages in 1978, posting a 25-3 record and 1.74 ERA, giving up just 6.1 hits every nine innings and striking out 248 batters.

    Guidry was the unanimous selection for the American League Cy Young Award that year and finished his career with a 170-91 record and 3.29 ERA.

     

    Honorable Mention

    Two knuckleball pitchers can share honorable mentions—Charlie Hough and Tim Wakefield. Hough won 216 games in a 25-year career, and Wakefield won exactly 200 games in 19 seasons before retiring in early 2012.

No. 50: Sid Fernandez

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    The last number on this list is the one number not made very popular in MLB history, but former New York Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez will get the nod here.

    Fernandez was an integral part of the Mets' pitching staff in 1986 when they captured the World Series title. Fernandez was 16-6 that season with a 3.52 ERA in 31 starts.

    Fernandez posted solid numbers for the Mets in his 10 seasons there, finishing with a record of 98-78 with a 3.14 ERA.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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