SHARE


You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1929, the numbers game began.

The Yankees were the first team to put numbers on the back of their uniforms. The numbers often corresponded to where the player hit the batting order, which is how Babe Ruth ended up with No. 3 and Lou Gehrig No. 4. So we’ll pick the greatest baseball player of all time from uniform No. 1 to No. 55, a harmless game I call “From Ozzie To Orel.”

The full “On this date …” archive

It is a fun exercise, which, in spots, requires a healthy debate. But, in these trying times, there is no need for hate here. There are no right or wrong answers, not on something as unofficial as the best No. 5 ever (DiMaggio, Pujols, Bench, Brett, others), No. 8 (Berra, Ripken, Morgan, Yaz, others), No. 19 (Feller, Gwynn, Yount), No. 20 (Frank Robinson or Schmidt), No. 21 (Spahn or Clemente) or No. 45 (Gibson or Pedro Martinez). It is subjective. Use your own judgement.

This is my list: 1 to 55.

It is not the correct list. It is my list, with facts and opinion. Mostly opinion.

It is not your list. It should not be your list.

1: Ozzie Smith
Best defensive shortstop ever

2: Derek Jeter
Top-four shortstop.

3: Babe Ruth
Best hitter ever, as many shutouts (17) as Pedro Martinez

4: Lou Gehrig
Best first baseman

5: Joe DiMaggio
Three MVPs, top four center fielder

6: Stan Musial
Most underrated superstar player

7: Mickey Mantle
Top-three center fielder

8: Yogi Berra
Second-best catcher ever, three MVPs, three seconds

9: Ted Williams
Higher career OPS than best single-season OPS of any active player

10: Chipper Jones
Top-four third baseman

11: Barry Larkin
Amazingly athletic shortstop

12: Roberto Alomar
Best defensive second baseman I’ve ever seen

13: Alex Rodriguez

One of five with 600 homers, 3,000 hits

14: Pete Rose
The Hit King

15: Carlos Beltran
Borderline Hall of Famer

16: Whitey Ford
Won 236 games, posted a .690 winning percentage

17: Dizzy Dean
Went 59-19 in 1933-34

18: Johnny Damon
2,769 hits, 522 doubles, 480 steals

19: Tony Gwynn
A .338 lifetime hitter, 297 three-hit games, one three-strikeout game

20: Mike Schmidt
Best third baseman ever

21: Roberto Clemente
A .318 lifetime hitter, best defensive right fielder ever

22: Clayton Kershaw
Three Cy Youngs, lowest ERA (2.44), 2,200 innings pitched, 1920-on

23: Ryne Sandberg
Nine Gold Gloves, 282 homers

24: Willie Mays
Second-best player all time

25: Barry Bonds
Top-three hitter

26: Wade Boggs
Lifetime .328, seven 200-hit seasons in a row

USA TODAY Sports

27: Mike Trout
Three MVPs, more to come

28: Bert Blyleven
Hall of Famer, top-three curveball

29: Rod Carew
A magician at the plate, .328 lifetime

30: Nolan Ryan
Greatest power pitcher, hardest pitcher to hit ever

31: Greg Maddux
Career value, best pitcher I’ve ever seen

32: Sandy Koufax
Peak value, best lefty ever. Went 97-27 in his last four seasons

33: Eddie Murray
One of six with 500 homers, 3,000 hits

34: David Ortiz
Big Papi

35: Rickey Henderson
No list is complete without him

36: Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry: Most wins by any pitcher in the 1960’s and 70’s combined

37: Keith Hernandez
Wore it with Cardinals, best defensive first baseman

38: Curt Schilling
Should make it to Cooperstown this year

39: Roy Campanella
Three-time MVP

40: Bartolo Colon
Had 247 wins, Cy Young, one amazing home run

41: Tom Seaver
Top 10-15 pitcher

42: Jackie Robinson
For all he did

43: Dennis Eckersley
More saves than baserunners allowed 1989-90

44: Hank Aaron
We still don’t appreciate his greatness

45: Bob Gibson
Most ferocious pitcher I’ve ever seen

46: Lee Smith
Hall of Fame closer.

47: Tom Glavine
Had 305 wins, two Cy Young, five 20-win seasons

48: Torii Hunter
We need more of him in our game

49: Hoyt Wilhelm
Top-five reliever, best knuckleball ever

50: J.R. Richard
Won 20 once, 18 three times, started 1980 All-Star game

51: Randy Johnson
Top-10 pitcher all time, most intimidating left-hander ever

52: CC Sabathia
Someday, he will be in Cooperstown.

53: Don Drysdale
Posted 209 wins, nine All-Star games

54: Goose Gossage
Top-five reliever ever

55: Orel Hershiser
59 consecutive scoreless innings in an all-time record

Other baseball notes from April 16

  • In 1922, Joe Bauman was born. In 1954, playing for Roswell, New Mexico. in Class C baseball, Bauman hit batted .400 with 72 homers and 224 RBIs — the most homers in any pro season until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001. After each home run that year, Bauman would earn what he called “fence money,” fans would pass him money through the chain-link fence behind home plate. “I bought a new car and made a down payment on a house that season,” Bauman said.

  • In 1940, Bob Feller threw the only no-hitter on Opening Day. As the son of a father with a Ph.D in mathematics, I understand there is a difference between no batting average and a .000 batting average. But for those of you who believe you are batting .000 before the first game of a season, then this is the only game in history in which every player had the same batting average after the game as he did before the game.

  • In 2000, Chuck Finley struck out four batters in an inning for the third time in his career, a major league record. That same season, the Indians used 32 pitchers, including Kane Davis, who pitched 11 innings. Finley ran a contest with the pitching staff to see who could name as many of the 32 pitchers used that season. Finley won. He named 27. “But,” he said, “there was controversy. One guy wasn’t sure if his name was Kane Davis or Davis Kane.”


LEAVE A REPLY