We all know the best Yankee ever to wear number two and number seven. But what about number 22? 48? 56? We dove into the wacky history of uniform digits to count up the best player to wear each pinstriped integer, with some fun uniform-number facts (mostly courtesy of Baseball-Reference) thrown in.
1 – Earle Combs
Sorry Billy Martin, managers don’t count. Combs, the first Yankee to ever wear number one, just beats out Bobby Murcer, who owned the number for most of his first stint in pinstripes.
2 – Derek Jeter
Now batting, num-bah two. Derek Jetah, numb-bah two.
3 – Babe Ruth
Babe was the first Yankee to wear number three, and it’s safe to say no one better has donned the jersey since.
4 – Lou Gehrig
This is the easiest one on the list because Gehrig is literally the only player in Yankee history to wear number four.
5 – Joe DiMaggio
Let’s pause and consider Frankie Crosetti, who wore number five, then switched to number one when DiMaggio came along, then ended up with number two. He’s one of two players in history to have worn three different single-digit numbers for the Yankees. That does not earn him a spot on this list, but it’s still cool.
6 – Tony Lazzeri
Here’s the other guy to wear three different single-digit numbers for the Yankees. Lazzeri wore numbers five through seven in his Yankee career but spent the most time in number six. He gets the nod here over another great New York second baseman, Joe Gordon, who wore the number right after Lazzeri.
7 – Mickey Mantle
First person to wear number seven for the Yankees? Future Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher. Last person to wear number seven for the Yankees? The Mick, of course.
8 – Yogi Berra
Number eight was worn by a Yankee player in 35 seasons. It was worn by Berra or Bill Dickey in 31 of those seasons.
9 – Graig Nettles
Number nine is retired in honor of Roger Maris, even though four players wore it after he did, including Nettles, who had a better career, a more valuable Yankees tenure, and a longer stint in this jersey than Maris did.
10 – Phil Rizzuto
Seven players wore number 10 after Rizzuto, but no one in Yankee history donned it as long or as prosperously as the Hall of Fame shortstop.
11 – Lefty Gomez
Gomez wore pinstriped number 11 in 11 seasons, most of any Yankee. If Brett Gardner is still on the Yankees roster come Opening Day, he’ll move past Fred Stanley and Hector Lopez for second place in that category.
12 – Gil McDougald
Number 12 has been worn by 49 Yankees, including some pretty good players. McDougald donned the number longest (10 season) and most productively (37.9 WARP), beating out Wade Boggs, Alfonso Soriano, and Ron Blomberg.
13 – Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod has made the most of a cursed number, winning two MVPs with 13 on his back. Apologies to Jim Leyritz, but no one else comes close.
14 – Moose Skowron
A real revolving-door number, 14 has been worn by an army of role players and only the occasional contributor. Lou Piniella had it longer than Skowron, but Moose provided more value in it.
15 – Thurman Munson
Red Ruffing did the number proud back in the ’30s, but 15 will always belong to Munson.
16 – Whitey Ford
The Chairman of the Board does not have much competition for ownership of number 16.
17 – Mickey Rivers
Most of the 53 Yankees to wear number 17 are utterly forgettable, but Rivers, Vic Raschi, and Oscar Gamble put in some good time in this jersey.
18 – Johnny Damon
This is probably the least impressive under-20 number in Yankee history. Damon only hung around the Bronx for four seasons, but that was long enough to beat out Don Larsen, Randy Velarde, and 51 other wearers for most valuable number 18.
19 – Dave Righetti
The Yankees hope Masahiro Tanaka can make number 19 memorable, but for now it belongs to Rags.
20 – Jorge Posada
Before Posada, number 20 was short on history (though it was on Bucky Dent’s back that fateful day in 1978), but now it’s rightfully retired in honor of the five-time All-Star catcher.
21 – Paul O’Neill
When the Yankees tried to give away number 21 in 2008, seven years after O’Neill’s retirement, fans rebelled, booing poor Morgan Ensberg and LaTroy Hawkins. No one has worn it since.
22 – Allie Reynolds
Even though Roger Clemens probably pitched a little better in number 22 than Reynolds did, it feels right to give this one to the ace of six World Series championship teams.
23 – Don Mattingly
Donnie Baseball has no serious rivals for number 23.
24 – Robinson Cano
Given how unceremoniously Cano skipped town, it will be interesting to see if he eventually gets respect as an all-time great Yankee. Regardless, he’s far and away the best to ever wear number 24 in pinstripes.
25 – Mark Teixeira
Teixeira gets the slight edge over his 25-wearing predecessor Jason Giambi for contributing to a championship team, becoming the fourth member of the 2009 Yankees infield to crack this list.
26 – Orlando Hernandez
Here’s the list of uniform numbers worn by the most Yankees players:
Number 26 – 69 players
Number 38 – 62 players
Number 39 – 60 players
Number 22 – 60 players
Number 29 – 57 players
No one has ever held onto number 26 for very long, but El Duque, who wore it in six seasons, is a worthy representative.
27 – Elliot Maddux
This is a painfully unimpressive bunch. Maddux gets the nod because someone had to and because Bob Wickman was his closest competition.
28 – Sparky Lyle
Another underwhelming crew is saved by the 1977 Cy Young winner.
29 – Mike Stanton
Stanton wins a toss-up over Jesse Barfield because he played for the Yankees longer. After those two it’s Francisco Cervelli. Seriously.
30 – Willie Randolph
Number 30 is pretty distinguished in Yankee history, from Eddie Lopat to Mel Stottlemyre to Dave Robertson, but Randolph tops them all.
31 – Dave Winfield
Here’s an odd quirk: Number 31 for the Yankees was worn exclusively by coaches between 1930 and 1975. Winfield came along soon after and owned the digits for a decade.
32 – Elston Howard
The Yankees first black player was also the last to wear number 32.
33 – David Wells
No one has ever consumed more hot dogs (or thrown more perfect games) while wearing number 33 for the Yankees than Wells.
34 – Brian McCann
With a respectable year in 2016, McCann can firmly grab number 34 from A.J. Burnett and Clete Boyer, who both wore it for three seasons.
35 – Mike Mussina
The Moose may not have that spot in Cooperstown quite yet, but he does have a spot on this list!
36 – David Cone
Cone is the only Yankee to wear number 36 for more than five seasons. His primary competition is late-career Johnny Mize and perpetually injured Nick Johnson.
37 – Gus Niarhos
Ok, number 37 is weird. It’s retired in honor of Casey Stengel, but since we’re not counting managers here we have to choose between the only two Yankees players to ever wear it: the thoroughly irrelevant Niarhos and someone named Herb Karpel who pitched in two games in his career.
38 – Matt Nokes
A lot of players have worn number 38 for the Yankees, and none have been any good. Hence Nokes.
39 – Roberto Kelly
Kelly actually reached the 1992 All-Star game while wearing number 39 for the Yankees, despite a lukewarm .272/.322/.384 slash line that season.
40 – Chien-Ming Wang
Wang was a pretty good pitcher for a minute there, wearing number 40 through his rise and fall.
41 – Randy Johnson
The pickings are pretty slim down here, so the Big Unit’s solid 2005 campaign alone earns him this spot.
42 – Mariano Rivera
43 – Jeff Nelson
Adam Warren was about one good year from seizing number 43, but now he’s a Cub and Nelson’s spot here is safe.
44 – Reggie Jackson
Reggie only wore number 44 for five seasons, but that’s two more than any other Yankee has ever held onto it.
45- Danny Tartabull
Since 2011, a whopping 13 Yankees have worn number 45, including four in 2014 alone. With that in mind, Tartabull’s claim to the number appears safe for now.
46 – Andy Pettitte
Did you know Don Mattingly wore number 46 at the beginning of his career? His decision to cut the figure in half paved the way for Pettitte.
47 – Ivan Nova
Believe it or not, Nova is the best Yankee to ever wear number 47. Shane Spencer leads a weak crowd of runners-up.
48 – Roy White
White wore number 48 only at the beginning of his career (he switched to number 6), just long enough to beat out Boone Logan.
49 – Ron Guidry
Guidry is actually the only Yankee ever to don number 49 in multiple seasons. He wore it in 14.
50 – Jay Howell
It’s no exaggeration to say no one good has ever worn number 50 for the Yankees. Howell did have a 2.69 ERA in 103.2 innings (mostly out of the bullpen) in 1984 though.
51 – Bernie Williams
Can you name the last guy to wear number 51 for the Yankees before Williams? It was pitcher Chuck Cary.
52 – CC Sabathia
Sabathia is the easy pick at number 52.
53 – Bobby Abreu
In recent years, number 53 has become a favorite for transient Yankee bench players. But from 2006-08, Abreu wore it pretty well.
54 – Goose Gossage
Impressively, Gossage wore number 54 for nine different MLB teams and never took the field in another number. Unrelated: Only coaches have worn number 54 for the Yankees since the turn of the 21st century.
55 – Hideki Matsui
Godzilla reigns at number 55. Ramiro Mendoza’s Yankee career would earn him the nod at a lot of these higher numbers but not here.
56 – Jim Bouton
Bouton also wins the award for best book written by someone who wore number 56 for the Yankees.
57 – Steve Howe
Of the 31 players to wear number 57 for the Yankees, Howe is the only one to stick with it for more than one season, at least until Branden Pinder suits up in 2016.
58 – Dooley Womack
We’re getting a little desperate down here. Womack wore number 58 from 1966-68, pitching 233.2 innings in that time.
59 – Juan Rivera
Rivera batted 276 times while wearing number 59 for the Yankees and hit .266/.307/.434 with eight home runs. He gets this spot for lack of better options.
60 – Stan Bahnsen
Not a single player in Yankee history has worn number 60 in multiple seasons, which makes this one almost impossible to choose. Bahnsen was the first Yankee to wear number 60, and though he didn’t do much while using that number in 1966, he did have a nice season two years later with 45 on his back.
61 – Shane Greene
Another number never worn for more than a full season, 61 has hosted a motley crew of mediocre 21st-century pitchers. Greene did more with the number than the rest, however.
62 – Joba Chamberlain
Joba had his ups and downs in pinstripes, but he’ll probably own number 62 for a while.
63 – Jonathan Albaladejo
Albaladejo wore number 63 during three seasons, which is three times as many seasons as any other Yankee ever has.
64 – Rob Refsnyder
Entering 2015, eight players had worn number 64 for the Yankees. In 2015 alone, five more joined the club. Despite only 47 plate appearances, Refsnyder is already the best to have used this jersey, narrowly beating Hector Noesi.
65 – Phil Hughes
Four players wore number 65 for the Yankees in 2015, matching the number of guys who had donned those digits in all of previous franchise history. Hughes is undisputed king of the number, having worn it for almost his entire Yankee career.
66 – John Ryan Murphy
Sincere apologies to Steve Balboni.
67 – James Pazos
Number 67 went unworn by all Yankees from 1988 to 2011 but has been used by exactly one player each year since then, most recently Pazos.
68 – Dellin Betances
Two players in Yankees history have worn number 68, and sorry Dioner Navarro, but Betances has this one locked up.
68-99 – Alfredo Aceves
In Yankee history, 16 players have worn numbers higher than 68. Most of them have played in the last five years, and most of them didn’t stick around long. The best-of-the-rest award goes to Aceves, who donned number 91 in four different season spread over two stints in New York and pitched well enough to make his number proud.
Lead photo courtesy of Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports