Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2, 1995: My Big Fat Boston Mistake


Twenty years ago today, I made a big fat mistake.

And it was because I am a sports nut.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I root for the New York Yankees. That means I root against the Boston Red Sox, and thus also tend to not like the other Boston teams.

I also root for the New Jersey Devils. Granted, that's a lot less history. But, at times, I take it a little more personally, since, unlike the Yankees, the Devils are actually my home-State team. More than that, they now play in Essex County, where I was born (although I haven't lived there since I was a toddler), and in Newark, where both of my parents grew up.

*

In 1995, the Boston Garden, home to the NHL's Boston Bruins since 1928 and the NBA's Boston Celtics since 1946, was closing after 67 years, prior to the opening of a new arena behind it, which is now named the TD Garden.

Due to various mistakes made in my life -- some small, some large -- I had already missed my chances to have enough money to visit some of the legendary stadiums and arenas of North America before they closed forever (and would miss more). Although I had visited Chicago in 1990, and seen both Wrigley Field and, in its last month of operation, Comiskey Park, I never got to see the original Soldier Field or, closing in 1994, Chicago Stadium.

Boston is considerably closer to my New Jersey home, so, having a job (however bad) in the winter of 1994-95 (as opposed to being out of work for most of the previous year), I had the money to see a game at the Boston Garden. Now, what I needed was the time.

I looked at the schedules for the building's home teams. On Friday, March 2, the Bruins were facing my home-State hockey team, the New Jersey Devils. On Saturday, March 10, 8 days later, the Celtics were facing my home-State basketball team, the New Jersey Nets.

Here were the parameters at the time:

* The Bruins were then the winners of 5 Stanley Cups. They hadn't won any since 1972 (they have since won another), but had been to the Finals in 1988 and 1990, and were usually good. In their 1st Playoff run, the Devils got knocked out by the Bruins in the 1988 Conference Finals. However, the Devils had knocked the Bruins out in 1994. Now, the Devils, coming off a near-miss in Game 7 of the Conference Finals, were struggling to make the Playoffs, while the Bruins were going to make it. Also, the Bruins would occasionally fail to sell out the Garden's 14,448-seat hockey capacity, making it easier to get tickets. This was the dawn of the Internet Era, and the idea of ordering tickets online hadn't even occurred to major league sports teams yet. And even if it had, I didn't have the computerized ability to do so.

* The Celtics were then the winners of 16 NBA Championships. Their last one was in 1986 (they have since won another), and had been a perennial Playoff team. However, by this point, they had gone downhill. Nevertheless, so had the Nets, who had made the Playoffs in 1993 and 1994, but had quickly fallen apart, and were now lousy. The Celtics hadn't played to an unsold seat since Larry Bird arrived in 1979: Despite the fact that Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were now gone, they had gotten 14,890 fans for every single home game since the start of the Iran Hostage Crisis, through the end of the Carter Administration, all through Reagan, all through Bush I, and now halfway through the 1st Clinton term.

* Therefore: Getting tickets wouldn't be easy for either game, but it would be easier for Devils-Bruins than for Nets-Celtics.

* And while the Bruins were more likely to put up tougher opposition than the Celtics (something that had not happened often since the 1st Celtic title in 1957), the Devils were more likely to put up a winning effort than the Nets.

So I decided to see Devils vs. Bruins on March 2, 1995.

This was a big fat mistake.

*

Boston is further north than New Jersey and New York City. The weather is a little different. It doesn't get appreciably colder, but the number of days that are colder is greater. So is the likelihood of snow. Infamously, the blizzard that hit Boston on February 6, 1978, dumping 27 inches of snow on the city and stranding players, fans and arena employees inside the Garden during college hockey's Beanpot Tournament (good thing there was food and restrooms in the arena), did not hit the New York Tri-State Area nearly as hard (although schools were closed for a day).

This was the beginning of March. Winter weather was still very possible. Indeed, last night, we got a couple of inches of snow here, with a coating of ice. That was not fun to shovel.

Nevertheless, I knew that the Boston Garden had been built in 1928. The average human rear end was a lot narrower in the Roaring Twenties, and the seats were not designed to accommodate people of my generation, used to eating more. I knew that there wouldn't be enough space under the seat for both a heavy winter jacket and the backpack I always traveled with at the time -- and it didn't occur to me at the time that I could check my backpack at North Station (which is, after all, a train station), on top of which the Garden was built. (In those pre-9/11 days, security was a lot more lax: They would ask to look inside the bag, but they wouldn't simply deny entry to a person with a backpack.)

So, instead, I left the house late at night on Thursday, March 1, wearing a light jacket, which I thought would, along with the backpack, fit under that 1928-built seat.

This did not seem to be a big mistake on the 1st. Nor did it seem to be a big mistake on the 2nd. It proved to be a very big mistake on the 3rd.

When the Greyhound bus pulled out of Port Authority Bus Terminal after midnight on Friday, March 2, it was chilly in New York, but there was no snow on the ground.

When I woke up just outside Boston on the Massachusetts Turnpike as daylight was breaking, I saw that there was snow on the ground.

Okay, no big deal. Anyway, in spite of the cold, I had a nice day. I made sure to go to the Garden hours beforehand, and bought my ticket. I checked the seating chart, and I was going to be in Section 60. Near center ice on the lower level. Hey, this is a great seat!

Yeah, Mike, hold that thought...

*

So, after doing some other things in the city -- including going to Faneuil Hall and taking a picture of Red Auerbach's statue with my Yankee cap placed on his bald head (hey, he was from New York, albeit Brooklyn and probably a Dodger fan growing up) -- I got back to the Garden at around 6:30, checked the place out, and found my seat.


(Note: This photo is not from that game.)

Great seat? Uh, no. My horizontal view was obstructed by a big-ass support post. And my vertical view was obstructed by the upper-deck overhang. I could only see about 60 percent of the rink, and I couldn't see the center scoreboard, only an auxiliary one. In fact, if it wasn't for a small TV set hanging overhead, installed into the overhang, I would have had to stand up or stretch to know what the score was, how much time was left in the period or in a penalty, or who was penalized.

Well, hey, bad seats were a big part of the Boston Garden experience. As well as a big reason why the thing was being replaced. At least I was there, right? At least I was seeing a game there, right?

More like, "At most, I was seeing a game there."

Cam Neely had just come back to the active roster, after missing nearly 2 years with an awful knee injury. And the Devils' resident pest, Claude Lemieux -- my favorite player, because he scored goals, he was tough, and always seemed to play better against the hated New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers -- decided to check him into the boards.

The Bruin fans didn't like that, and booed vociferously. I understood.

Neely decided to deck Claudie. I understood.

But Claudie dropped to his knees and covered his head. In hockey, this move is known as "turtling." Claude turtled, as Neely pounded away.

The referee threw Neely out of the game, and gave Claudie no penalty.

The Bruin fans went from angry to frothing-at-the-mouth rage. The language that came from them was George Carlinesque. I understood.

But I made a big fat mistake.

I stood up.

Now, at this point, I wasn't making enough money to buy my own personalized Devils jersey. But I had a Devils cap on. And I was wearing a shirt with alternating black and red stripes, Devils colors.

I stood up so that I could get a better look at this spectacle. What I achieved instead was give the Bruin fans a convenient target. They couldn't reach Claudie with anything they could throw, but they could sure reach me.

I became the target of a barrage that included popcorn, hot dog buns, the cartons containing the preceding, wadded-up pieces of paper, plastic cups, and other things I have since forgotten. Good thing for me that, by this point, glass bottles were no longer being sold at North American sporting events, or I could have gotten seriously hurt.

I could still have gotten seriously hurt. One of those Bruin fans could have come over and taken his frustrations out on me. This is why soccer games, all over the world, segregate the fans: The visiting team's fans are put together in adjoining sections, so they don't get attacked by the home fans. This is also done in American college and high school sports.

Not so at the major league level: A visiting fan sits anywhere he likes, but at his own risk.

It's a good thing I didn't reach into that backpack and take out the Yankee cap I brought. This was before the start of the Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling era of the Red Sox, but Sox fans still hated Yankee Fans more than any other fans of a North American sports team hated another other fans. They had no idea if I was a Yankee Fan or a Met fan -- or even if I liked baseball at all. (After all, this was not a baseball game.) But I'll guarantee you that 99 percent of the 14,000 or so Bruin fans in the building (there had to be a few other Devils fans visiting) were also Red Sox fans.

The fan to my left, thankfully, was a lot calmer, and suggested that I stay seated and quiet for the rest of the game. The fan to my right, thankfully, said nothing at all.

With every Bruin goal, the home fans razzed me some more. Doing the wisest thing I would do in a 36-hour stretch (maybe in the 25-year stretch that my life then was), I kept my mouth shut, and didn't provoke them.

I have since been to Yankees-Red Sox games at Fenway Park; Devils-Rangers games at the Meadowlands, the Prudential Center, and Madison Square Garden; Devils-Flyers games at the Meadowlands, the Prudential Center, and whatever the new Philly arena is called this year; and exhibition games at Red Bull Arena featuring legendary teams of European soccer. This was, easily, the most endangered I have ever felt at a sporting event. And the Devils and Bruins aren't even secondary rivals to each other, much less each other's primary rivals. (That would be the Rangers for both teams, or possibly the Montreal Canadiens for the Bruins.)

In the end, it might have been much worse for me if the Devils had won the game. But that wasn't going to happen.

Brian Smolinski scored a hat trick: 3 goals. And he wasn't even named the 1st star of the game: Adam Oates scored a goal and had 5 assists. Martin Brodeur got shelled, and, with the score 5-1 Bruins after 2 periods, head coach Jacques Lemaire pulled him in favor of Chris Terreri, the former star of Providence College who dreamed of playing at the Bahstin Gahden, but for the Bruins. He was no better. And the Bruin fans went from hideous anger to fiendish glee.

Final score: Bruins 7, Devils 2. The Devils, already known for a good defense that included future Hall-of-Famers Brodeur, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, allowed 7 goals: 3 by Smolinski, and 1 each by Oates, Mats Nasulnd, Jozef Stumpel, and Mariusz Czerkawski, the 1st player born and trained to play hockey in Poland to make the NHL (who later had his best years for the New York Islanders). Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, later to end his career by wrecking our 2001 Stanley Cup Finals dream for the Colorado Avalanche, had 3 assists, and pretty much controlled the game. The Devils goals were scored by Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske.

Seven goals. Or, as they would say if this were an English soccer game: "What time is it? Seven past Brodeur!"

Attendance: 14,448. A sellout. I don't recall how many of those seats ended up sold but unfilled. It sure seemed like every seat had some ass in it.

Since Bruin fans were in a good mood at the end, they left me alone. I waited a few minutes for the section to thin out, just in case, and then convinced an usher to take my picture in front of the Garden ice. It didn't come out, though: Either the flash didn't go off, or, between it and the arena lighting, there still wasn't enough light. You can see a figure raising his arms in a "What can you do?" pose, but you can't see his face, and you can't tell that it's me.

*

Now, here's where I made things much worse than they had to be. Although the day wasn't terribly cold, the night was. I left the Garden at around 10:00. My bus back to New York wasn't scheduled to leave until 12:30. Even if I went straight from the Garden to South Station (the combined train/bus terminal at the edge of downtown), that would still leave me with a shade over 2 hours with nothing to do, but wait.

So I decided to walk back from North Station to South Station. I removed my Devils cap, put it in he backpack, put on my light jacket, thus hiding my status as a Devils (and Yankee) fan, and walked the mile or so between the transit hubs. It took me about half an hour, leaving me with still an hour and a half to sit around and do nothing. (I read my copies of that day's Boston Globe and Boston Herald again.)

But it was much, much colder. And I had only a light jacket. The shirt in question was rather thin. I didn't bring gloves. And I wasn't wearing either of my hats. By the time I got back onto the bus, I was thinking that I'd gotten out of New England with my head in one piece. I had no idea just what shape my head, or my chest, was going to be in.

On the morning of Saturday, March 3, I woke up on the bus in The Bronx, and didn't feel so good. By the time I got back home, and hit the sack for a couple of extra hours of sleep (or so I thought), I knew I had a cold.

That cold lasted 6 weeks. No matter what I took, no matter how much rest I got, I couldn't shake it. For 2 weeks, my head felt like it weighed a ton. My sinuses were like marble. Only marble doesn't produce gooey liquids. And I couldn't stop coughing.

It's a wonder I didn't lose my job. I won't say where I was working, because of things that happened after the cold finally ran its course, things that make me hate that company to this day, 20 years later. Let's just say it was a restaurant which, like Boston's arena, had "Garden" in its name. I learned a few things at that job, including how to cough on my elbows, not my hands. A bit more healthful for others that way.

Oh, by the way: On March 10, 1995, the pathetic Nets (24-36 going in, just 8-23 on the road)beat the Celtics (24-35, 14-17 at home), 111-81. Attendance: Sure enough, 14,890. Not including me.

On May 14, 1995, in what turned out to be the final game that counted for anything at the Boston Garden, the Devils beat the Bruins, 3-2, and eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On June 24, 1995, the Devils beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-2, to sweep the Stanley Cup Finals, and win their 1st Cup.

*

On December 9, 2006, I made my next visit to a Devils-Bruins game. By a weird turn of events, this was also the last season at their old arena for the Devils: The Prudential Center opened the following October. But this one was also on the road. This was at the new Garden -- it was still called the FleetCenter then, after a bank since swallowed up by TD Bank.



The experience was different in every way. I wore the same Devils cap, and the same red-and-black striped shirt. But, this time, I had enough money to get a Devils jersey, with my last name and the Number 44 on the back. And I also had enough money to get a hotel room for the night, just a 5-minute walk from the arena's gate, so I could leave my backpack there, and not arouse security's suspicions. The new arena had spacious concourses, aisles and seats. I could put the big winter jacket I properly wore under the seat, and could probably have fit the backpack under there, too. There were no obstructions: There were no support posts, and the upper deck was high enough for even the people in the back row of the lower level to see the entire rink and the main scoreboard.


(Yet again, the picture is not from the game that I saw.)

The Devils were considerably better than the Bruins at this point, and it showed: They won, 5-1. The game was never really in any doubt. The Devils' goals were scored by Jay Pandolfo, Jamie Langenbrunner, Erik Rasmussen, Patrik Elias and Sergi Brylin. Brodeur stopped 19 out of 20 shots. This time, it was the Bruins' goalie, Tim Thomas, who was pulled for his backup -- after just 1 period. (Although, given that the score was only 2-0 Devils at that point, it may have been due to an injury.)

Being 11 years older, and hopefully wiser, and remembering my 1995 experience at the old Garden, I made my celebration of each goal, and the final horn, brief, and nothing out of the ordinary. The Bruin fans, not seeing a Devils player abuse one of their heroes, and seeing their team get embarrassed in the game, and not in a fight, mostly behaved themselves. Nobody gave me a hard time. Perhaps it was the nature of the building: The old Garden was a temple of sports passion going back to the Coolidge Administration, home to 21 World Championships and dozens of Hall-of-Famers; while the new Garden had hardly any history, its history being in the minds of its regular fans and not on the floor/ice/hardwood.

Or perhaps it was due to one more big, big difference: The attendance was only 13,476 -- 77 percent of capacity. This was more than a year after the restart of NHL play after the 2004-05 lockout, and fans weren't fully back yet; but the Bruins came into the game with 14-12 record, so they were hardly hopeless. (The Devils were 16-11.)

*

Today, the Devils have co-head coaches, both of whom played in that March 2, 1995 game: Former Devils Captain Scott Stevens and Bruins Hall-of-Famer... Adam Oates. I wonder if they ever talk about that game.

I sure do. This morning, I told my 7-year-old nieces about it. They enjoyed the story. I told them, "It's funny now. It sure wasn't funny then!"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Minnie Miñoso, 1925-2015


Who is the greatest player not in the Baseball Hall of Fame? If you said Pete Rose, you need to get smacked: While he was one of the great team players in baseball history, his career OPS+ was just 118, he never topped 82 RBIs in a season, and the reason he is the only player to play at least 500 games at 5 different positions -- 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, left field and right field -- is because he wasn't very good at fielding any of them. (He won Gold Gloves in 1969 and '70, but those were rather dubious.)

It may be that the best all-around baseball player not in the Hall of Fame is an outfielder who played the bulk of his career for the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. And, no, I don't mean Shoeless Joe Jackson. Come to think of it, Rocky Colavito would also qualify for that description (if you threw in the Detroit Tigers), but I don't mean him, either.

The best all-around baseball player not in the Hall of Fame may well be Minnie Miñoso. But now, he won't live to see his rightful election.

*

Saturnino Orestes Armas Arrieta was born on November 29, 1925 in Perico, Cuba, near the capital of Havana. (Like a lot of Hispanic players, there is some dispute as to the year; 1922 has also been cited, but Baseball-Reference.com says 1925, so that's what I'm going with.) His father was his mother's 2nd husband; her 1st had been named Miñoso, and he later assumed the name so that he would have the same last name as his older half-brothers. He would later, in an American court, have his name legally changed to Orestes Miñoso.

He worked in Cuba's oppressively hot sugar cane fields like his father did. When he found out that, unlike some other sugar plantations, the one he was on didn't have a baseball team, he organized it himself. A righthanded hitter and thrower, he patterned himself after the greatest player Cuba had yet produced (and perhaps still has), Negro League star Martin DiHigo: He learned to play multiple positions, and to hit to the opposite field. Settling on mainly playing 3rd base, in 1946 he made his North American professional debut with the New York Cubans, a Negro League team that sometimes played home games at the Polo Grounds. One of their pitchers was a crafty lefty named Luis Tiant -- father of the twisty, mustachioed Boston Red Sox pitching legend.

The owner, a gangster from Cuba named Alex Pompez, had a working relationship with the New York Giants: The Cubans were the only Negro League team that was officially a farm team of a major league team; as a result, they were the only Negro League team that got compensated when a major league team raided its roster. The Kansas City Monarchs, the Newark Eagles, the Baltimore Elite Giants, and so on? They got nothing in exchange for Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, Roy Campanella, et al.

Prior to Miñoso, there had been a few Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans playing in Major League Baseball -- one of the 1st Cubans was Armando Marsans, who became Minnie's 1st professional manager in Cuba -- but they had all been obviously white, primarily of Spanish heritage rather than native Carib "Indians" or descendants of African slaves. (Southern politicians, especially after they seceded and formed the Confederate States of America, wanted to purchase Cuba from Spain, because of the slave labor and the vast sums of money to be made from Cuban sugar and fruit.) The saying was that they were "pure bars of Castilian soap."

Harlem Globetrotters founder-owner Abe Saperstein, a big baseball fan, is said to have recommended Miñoso to Indians owner Bill Veeck, who had integrated the American League with Larry Doby, and by this point had also signed Paige. 

On April 19, 1949, "Minnie" Miñoso -- I can find no reference as to where the nickname came from -- made his major league debut, with the Indians, against the St. Louis Browns, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, becoming the 1st black Hispanic player in major league history. Wearing Number 18, he made one plate appearance, drawing a walk as a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning. The Browns lost, 5-1. He didn't play again until May 4, when he got his 1st hit off Alex Kellner of the Philadelphia Athletics, and the Indians won, 4-3. The next day, against the Boston Red Sox, he hit his 1st home run off Jack Kramer. (The pitcher, not the tennis player.)

But the Indians were loaded in the late Forties and all through the Fifties, and with All-Star Al Rosen entrenched at 3rd base, the Tribe really didn't have a place for Minnie. On April 30, 1951, they sent him to the White Sox in a 3-way trade involving some other interesting names. The ChiSox got Miñoso and Paul Lehner. The Indians got Lou Brissie, who reached the majors as a lefthanded pitcher despite a war wound that nearly cost him his right leg, and required that he wear a metal plate over the constantly-operated-on shin.  The A's got slugger Gus Zernial, pinch-hit expert Dave Philley (who would now be playing in "Philly," and would eventually play for the Phillies), Ray Murray and Sam Zoldak. (Have you ever seen another trade involving 2 players whose last name began with a Z -- in any sport?)

On May 1, 1951, Miñoso became the 1st black player in the history of Major League Baseball in Chicago. (The late Ernie Banks would become the Cubs' 1st black player 2 years later.) In his 1st at-bat for the South Siders, he hit a home run of Yankee pitcher Vic Raschi, driving in Lehner, with whom he was traded. Also hitting a home run in that game was a 19-year-old kid from Oklahoma, playing right field for the Yankees. It was his 1st in the majors. His name was Mickey Mantle. The Yankees won the game, 8-3, as Yogi Berra also homered.

Both Mantle and Miñoso were on their way to what should have been Hall of Fame careers. While Mantle's had the occasional sidetrack, he did get elected in his 1st year of eligibility. In that regard, Miñoso wasn't so lucky.

From then on, "the Cuban Comet" wore Number 9, and was mainly an outfielder, playing 1,509 of his 1,665 major league games (90.6 percent) in left field. The Gold Gloves weren't established until 1957, but he won them in 3 of the 1st 4 seasons in which they were presented -- the last one shortly before he turned 35.

From 1919 to 2005, the White Sox won just 1 Pennant -- and Minnie wasn't with them when they did. Indeed, they'd traded him back to the Indians on December 4, 1957, so not only did he miss that Pennant, he was on the team that finished 2nd! But, while he put up good numbers for the Indians, the ChiSox might not have won the Pennant if they hadn't made the trade: They sent Minnie and Fred Hatford for Al Smith (replacing Minnie in left field) and Early Wynn (who won 24 games at age 39, and won the Cy Young Award).

The White Sox traded to get him back in 1960, and in that season he became the last player to play in every game in a 154-game season. Before the 1962 season, they sent him to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he wore the same Number 9 that had been worn by Enos Slaughter, and would later be worn by Roger Maris, Joe Torre and Terry Pendleton before being retired for Slaughter. But he crashed into an outfield wall, fracturing his skull and his wrist, and ending his time as a productive player.

He spent 1963 with the Washington Senators, and returned to the White Sox in 1964, making 38 plate apperances, mainly as a pinch-hitter, at age 38, as the Sox finished just 1 game behind the Yankees.

Miñoso was a 7-time All-Star, His lifetime batting average was .298, with 8 seasons of .300 or better, topping out at .326 in 1951 his rookie season, when he finished 2nd in the American League Rookie of the Year voting to the Yankees' Gil McDougald. (Mantle didn't come close.) His OPS+ was 130 -- meaning he was 30 percent better at producing runs than the average batter of his time. Despite playing most of his career in Comiskey Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium, great pitcher's parks, he hit 186 home runs, topping 20 4 times, peaking at 24 in 1958. Until 1974, his 135 home runs in a White Sox uniform were a team record. He had 4 100+ RBI seasons, peaking at 116 in 1954.

He led the AL in stolen bases in 1951, '52 and '53; in triples in 1951, '54 and '56; in total bases in 1954; in doubles in 1957; in hits in 1960; in sacrifice flies in 1960 and '61; and in hit-by-pitches 10 times. He was hit by 188 pitches, an AL record until it was broken by Don Baylor in 1985.

*

The Miñoso legend was just getting warmed up. He went to Mexico, both managing and playing 1st base. batting .360 in 1965 and .348 in 1966. The Mexican League, today, is classified as Triple-A, and was probably of the same quality then, so Minnie may well have still been able to hit in the majors. Alas, there was no designated hitter in those days. He continued to play in Mexico until 1973, when he was nearly 48 (or 51, depending on whose records you believe). Mexican fans called him El Charro Negro -- "The Black Cowboy."

Bill Veeck, who'd been the owner of the Indians who'd signed Miñoso and of the White Sox who traded to get him back in 1960, was owner of the White Sox again, and hired him as a base coach. Veeck even activated him, and on September 12, 1976, Miñoso got a hit off California Angels pitcher Sid Monge. He was advertised as the oldest player ever to get a hit in a big-league game: 53 years old. In fact, he was 50, and the 3rd-oldest.


(Don't worry: While he did wear the awful Pale Hose uniforms of the Second Veeck Era, he didn't actually play in the shorts, which were only worn for 3 games, before September call-ups made his place on the roster justifiable.)

In 1980, Veeck had him activated one more time, at age 54. This made him the 3rd-oldest player in major league history, behind Paige (59) and Nick Altrock (also an occasionally-reactivated coach, 57) -- and the only player besides Altrock ever to appear in major league games in 5 different decades. He made his last appearance on October 5, 1980, at Comiskey Park, in a game in which the White Sox beat the Angels, 5-3. As with his big-league debut, 41 years earlier, he pinch-hit in the 7th inning. He grounded to 3rd off Dave Schuler.

On September 30, 1990, the last game was played at Comiskey Park, and Miñoso -- by this point known as "Mr. White Sox," just as Ernie Banks was "Mr. Cub" -- presented the White Sox lineup card. In 1993 and again in 2003, Mike Veeck, Bill's son and the owner of the revived St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, signed him to make 1-day appearances, so that he could play professional baseball in a 6th and a 7th decade -- in the latter, drawing a walk and reaching base at age 77.

*

Minnie married twice, and had 4 children. In 1983, the White Sox retired his Number 9. In 2004, a statue in his honor was dedicated at U.S. Cellular Field (formerly named the new Comiskey Park). 

He first appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame ballot in 1970, and didn't get enough support to stay on it. Last playing in 1980, he was restored to the ballot in 1986 (getting in the official waiting period of 5 full years), but never made it, and in 2000 his BBWAA eligibility expired. He was eligible in the Veterans Committee votes of 2011 and 2014, but didn't not get enough votes either time.

Baseball-Reference has a Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a score of 100 indicates a "Likely HOFer." Miñoso is at 87, which means he falls short. They also have a Hall of Fame Standards, on which a score of 50 represents the "Average HOFer." Miñoso is at 35, which means he falls well short. And they have Similar Batters, showing the 10 players most statistically similar to a player, weighted toward players who played the same position. The 10 players most similar to Minnie: Carl Furillo, Cy Williams, Ken Griffey Sr., Amos Otis, Gary Matthews Sr., Ben Chapman, Dixie Walker, Bob Watson, Gee Walker and Tony Oliva. None of those are in the Hall of Fame, although many people (including myself) think Oliva should be in. It's also worth pointing out that these stats are for hitting and running only, and do not take defense into account.

One of the arguments in Miñoso's favor is that he got a late start, due to the color line. Except that might not be true. For so long, it was presumed that he was born in 1922, making him 26 when he first stepped to the plate in a major league game, and that's much too late for a player of his talent. But if he really was born in 1925, as Baseball-Reference says, then he made his big-league debut at age 23, and that's hardly early by the standards of that era, especially since it was a lot harder for a major league team to find a worthy player, white or black, in Cuba or elsewhere in the Caribbean than it would have been to find one in the continental U.S. And while he was certainly good in the Negro Leagues, he didn't have the long record of being spectacular in them, as did Irvin and Doby, who got into the Hall based on a combination of performances from all-black and mostly-white baseball.

But considering what kind of performance Minnie Miñoso put up, playing just about every home game in a park that favored pitchers (or, in the case of his brief time in St. Louis' Sportsman's Park, favored lefthanded hitters rather than righthanded ones like himself), adding in his defense, adding in his Negro League tenure, and topping it off with his pioneer status, as the 1st black Hispanic in the major leagues, I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.


Minnie Miñoso died today, having been found unresponsive in his car while he was getting gas. He was 89, and, like Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, who died on Friday, the cause appears to have been the lung ailment COPD.

The players who were stars in the 1950s are going fast. There aren't a whole lot left. A few of the Brooklyn Dodgers are still around, like Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine. The New York Giants are still represented by Irvin and Willie Mays. The Yankees still have Yogi Berra, but he has looked very frail the last couple of years. We need to treasure these people while we can.

Chicago had just lost Ernie Banks, and now they've lost Minnie Miñoso. They were treasures of their city. It is sad that, now, they will be buried treasures.

"Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime," said the world's leading White Sox fan, President Barack Obama, a permanent resident of Chicago's South Side, "but, for me, and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie's quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could."

The Prez has a way with words, just as Minnie Miñoso had a way with baseball.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Best Soccer Players By Uniform Number


Part 5 of a series. I will conclude it by doing the greatest performers in all of sport to wear the number.

In this case, I am making an exception to the rule of club over country, and finding out, as best I can -- we're talking, literally, about a whole world of players, going back to 1928 when numbers first appeared on English football shirts -- who was the best player ever to wear the number.

Especially in the era before squad numbers were set (1993 in England), players would be shifted in position, and would wear the number assigned to that position. So many great players, even since 1993, have worn more than one number. Nevertheless, it's one number to a player here. So Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't get to wear 7 and 17. In fact, he doesn't get to wear either.

0 Alex Stepney of England. The Manchester United goalkeeping legend wore it with the Dallas Tornado in 1979 and '80.

00 Steve Zerhusen of Baltimore. Wore it for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1979 and '80.

1 Lev Yashin of Russia. The traditional goalkeeper's number goes to the man more often than any other called the best of all time. Starred in goal for Dynamo Moscow in both soccer and hockey for 20 years.

2 Cafu of Brazil. Starred at Right Back for São Paulo in Brazil, Real Zaragoza in Spain, and AS Roma and AC Milan in Italy, as well as Captaining Brazil to the 2002 World Cup.

3 Paolo Maldini of Italy. Wore it for AC Milan for 25 years.

4 Patrick Vieira of France. In 1998, won the League and the FA Cup -- The Double -- for Arsenal, and the World Cup for France. Won another Double in 2002. Was Captain of Arsenal's "Invincibles" in 2004. Nearly won another World Cup in 2006.

5 Franz Beckenbauer of Germany. Wore it in victorious Finals for 3 European Cups for Bayern Munich and a World Cup Final for West Germany.

6 Bobby Moore of England. Wore it in Finals in Wembley Stadium 3 straight years: The 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup for West Ham United, and the 1966 World Cup for England.

7 Kenny Dalglish of Scotland. Those of you who are Manchester United fans will consider this blasphemy, but then, you also consider your Ferguson-era trophies to be fairly won. "King Kenny" is arguably the greatest player ever for 2 legendary British clubs, Glasgow's Celtic, and Liverpool.

8 Giuseppe Meazza of Italy. Starring for Internazionale Milano, the stadium that "Inter" shares with AC Milan is named for him. Led Italy to victory in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups. Yes, Liverpool fans, Steven Gerrard was considered for this list. No, he was never going to be chosen for this number.

9 Bobby Charlton of England. Unlike such previous English legends wearing the number, like Dixie Dean of Everton and Jackie Milburn of Newcastle United, the Manchester United legend wore it in the television era, including the 1966 World Cup win.

10 Pelé of Brazil. Starred for Santos in his homeland in the 1960s, and in the mid-1970s dragged America kicking and screaming (for joy) into the soccer world with the New York Cosmos. The only man to play on 3 World Cup winners. There are, of course, people who would have preferred that I select Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane or Lionel Messi. Zidane and Messi will show up on this list. If you still doubt that Pelé is the greatest player ever, or at least the greatest ever to wear Number 10, take a look at the photo above. It was taken at his farewell match at the Meadowlands in 1977. And the other man in that picture, Muhammad Ali, still Heavyweight Champion of the World at the time, and a man who liked to call himself "the Greatest of All Time," said after seeing the spectacle, "Now I understand. He is greater than me."

11 Garrincha of Brazil. The legend of Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo wore it while starring in the 1958 World Cup. Was even more amazing in the 1962 World Cup, wearing 7.

12 Júlio César of Brazil. Now wrapping up his career with Portuguese giants Benfica, the goalie starred for Rio de Janeiro's Flamengo and Milan's Inter, wearing 12 with the latter, and in the last World Cup for Brazil.

13 Eusebio of Portugal. The Benfica star wore it in the 1966 World Cup. Usually wore 10.

14 Thierry Henry of France. Wore it for his club teams, but wore 12 for his national team and in his brief 2012 loan return to Arsenal.

15 Lilian Thuram of France. Starred for AS Monaco (Monaco is an independent nation, but so small that it competes in France's Ligue 1), Parma and Juventus. World Cup winner 1998.

16 Martin Peters of England. At a time when England didn't allow numbers past 11 (and then 12, once substitutions were legalized in 1966), he wasn't intended to be a starter for England's World Cup team in 1966. He ended up not only playing in the Final, but scoring. Usually wore 10 for West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City.

17 Steven Gerrard of England. Wore it for Liverpool before switching to the more familiar 8. Usually wears 4 for England.

18 Lionel Messi of Argentina. The Real Madrid star has long since switched to 10 for both club and country.

19 Wim Suurbier of the Netherlands. The Ajax legend wore it with the Los Angels Aztecs in 1979 and '80.

20 Vavá of Brazil. Starred for Rio de Janeiro club Vasco da Gama and Spanish side Atlético Madrid. Scored the biggest goals in Brazil's 1958 World Cup win, and also played on the 1962 World Cup winners (having switched to 19). 

21 Zinedine Zidane of France. Wore it at Juventus, 5 at Real Madrid, 10 for his country. A tough call over AC Milan and Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo.

22 Kaká of Brazil. Wore 8 at São Paulo and Real Madrid, 22 at AC Milan. Has worn 8 and 10 for Brazil, and now wears 10 for MLS expansion team Orlando City.

23 Sol Campbell of England. Famously made the switch across North London from Tottenham Hotspur (switching from 23 to the more common centreback number of 5 by the end of his tenure there) to Arsenal (taking 31 on his brief return to the club after playing at Portsmouth where he also wore 23).

24 Tim Howard of America. Always wears 1 for the national team, wore 14 at Manchester United, and has worn 24 for Liverpool-based Everton since 2006.

25 Gianfranco Zola of Italy. Starred for Napoli, Parma and Chelsea.

26 John Terry of England. Yes, he represents so much of what's wrong with the modern game (and wears 6 for his national team), but show me anyone else whose done more with 26 than Captain Cuckold has with Chelsea.

27 Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria. Wore it at Portsmouth after wearing 14 at Ajax, 19 at Inter and 25 at Arsenal. Always wore 4 for his country.

28 Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. Wore it at Sporting Lisbon, but was given 7 upon his arrival at Manchester United, because manager Alex Ferguson wanted him to become the kind of legend who had worn it: George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham.

29 Rio Ferdinand of England. Wore it at Leeds United before getting poached by Manchester United and switching to 5.

30 Johan Cruijff of the Netherlands. Aside from Pelé and Maradona with 10, no footballer is more identified with a single number than Cruijff (whose name is frequently, but incorrectly, spelled "Cruyff") is with the 14 he wore in his best years at Ajax, in the NASL with the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Washington Diplomats, and with the Dutch national team. But he wore 9 at Barcelona, and wore 30 in 2 friendlies with the New York Cosmos in 1979. True, he never played a competitive match in the number. But who else are you going to pick for 30 -- Obafemi Martins?

31 George Weah of Liberia. Normally a 9, wore 31 for Chelsea.

32 David Beckham of England. The Manchester United and Real Madrid legend wore it with AC Milan.

33 Alex of Brazil. Wears it for AC Milan, after also wearing it for Chelsea.

34 Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands. Wears it at AC Milan, after also wearing it at Manchester City. Usually wears 8 for his country, but has also worn 6 and 17 in international tournaments.

35 Viktor Genev of Bulgaria. Was a star by his home country's standards. Now plays in Scotland for St. Mirren.

36 Matteo Darmian of Italy. Wore it for Sicilian side Palermo.

37 Jari Litmanen of Finland. Wore it at Liverpool, after usually wearing 10 with clubs like Ajax and Barcelona.

38 Sinan Bolat of Turkey. Wears it for Istanbul giants Galatasaray.

39 Nicolas Anelka of France. Wore 9 at Arsenal, but whenever he wears out his welcome at a club (which is usually soon to happen), "Le Sulk" goes to one where 9 is occupied, so he takes 39. Has worn 8, 9 and 21 for France.

40 Henrique Hilário of Brazil. Wore it with Chelsea.

41 Cédric of Portugal. Wears it for Sporting Lisbon.

42 Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast.

43 Julian Dicks of England.

44 Massimo Oddo of Italy. Wore it for AC Milan, although switched to 17 -- which is usually considered a bad-luck number in Italy.

45 Mario Balotelli of Italy. Has worn it for both Milan clubs, Manchester City, and now Liverpool, but usually wears 9 for his country.

46 Salvator Sirigu of Italy. Wore it for Palermo.

47 Andrea Consigli of Italy. Wears it for Sassuolo.

48 Salih Uçan of Turkey. Wears it for Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe, and also in his current loan spell at AS Roma.

49 Muhammed Demirci of Turkey. Wears it for Istanbul side Beşiktaş.

50 Michele Somma of Italy. Wears it for Empoli, on loan from AS Roma.

51 Mauricio Pinilla of Chile. Has worn in for several Italian clubs, currently Genoa (but on loan to Atalanta).

52 Emre Çolak of Turkey. Wears it for Istanbul giants Galatasaray.

53 Serdar Kesimal of Turkey. Wears it for Fenerbahçe.

54 Isaac Donkor of Ghana. Wears it for Inter.

55 Yuto Nagatomo of Japan. Wears it for Inter. Wears 5 for his country.

56 Nico Pulzetti of Italy. Plays for Bologna.

57 Cesc Fabregas of Spain. Wore it in his 1st season for Arsenal, 2003-04, before switching to 15 the next season and 4 in 2006-07. Kept it when he betrayed the club and went to Barcelona and now Chelsea.

58 Gedion Zelalem of the Washington, D.C. area. Wore it once for Arsenal, and has now switched to 35.

59 Couldn't find one worth posting.

60 Jeff Parke of the Philadelphia area. Wore it with the New York Red Bulls in 2008.

61 Konstantinos Kotsaris of Greece. Wears it for Athens giants Panathinaikos.

62 Couldn't find one worth posting.

63 Couldn't find one worth posting.

64 Couldn't find one worth posting.

65 Couldn't find one worth posting.

66 Giampiero Pinzi of Italy. Wears it for Udinese.

67 Eray İşcan of Turkey. Wears it for Galatasaray.

68 Andrea Fulignati of Italy. Wears it for Palermo.

69 Bixente Lizarazu of France. Wore it at Bayern Munich in 2005. Said it was his lucky number. He was born in 1969, stood 169 centimeters tall, and weighed 69 kilograms.

70 Ainsley Maitland-Niles of England. Hasn't yet done much, for Arsenal or any other club, but he's played (and worn the number) in a UEFA Champions League match, which is more than I can say for the only other Number 70 I could find, Stefano Sorrentino of Italy, a backup goalie who wears it for Palermo.

71 Diego Serna of Columbia. Wore it with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in 2002.

72 Josip Iličić of Slovenia. Wore it for Palermo, and now wears it for Fiorentina.

73 Stefan O'Connor of England. Hasn't yet done much, for Arsenal or any other club, but he's played (and worn the number) in a UEFA Champions League match, which is more than I can say for any other Number 73 I could find.

74 Mohamed Salah of Egypt. Signed to Chelsea, but on loan to Fiorentina, with whom he wears it.

75 Couldn't find one worth posting.

76 Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine. Wore his birth year at AC Milan because his usual 10 wasn't available.

77 Gianluigi Buffon of Italy. One of the greatest goalies ever, wore it at Juventus in 1999-2000.

78 Aurélien Collin of France. The MLS All-Star wore it for Sporting Kansas City, and will now wear it for expansion Orlando City.

79 Gianluca Pegolo of Italy. Wears it for Sassuolo.

80 Ronaldinho of Brazil. Wore the last 2 digits of his birth year at AC Milan because his usual 10 wasn't available. Wearing your birth year as a uniform number is going to become less common once we have players born in 2000 or later.

81 Cristian Zaccardo of Italy. The AC Milan player wears his birth year, but wore 2 for his country.

82 Alexandre Geijo of Spain. Wears his birth year for Udinese.

83 Antonio Miranti of Italy. Wears his birth year for Parma.

84 Clint Mathis of the Atlanta area. Wore it with the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1998 to 2000, and again in 2010. Usually wore 13.

85 Diego Novaretti of Italy. Wears his birth year for Rome club SS Lazio.

86 Fabrizio Cacciatore of Italy. Wears his birth year for Genoa side Sampdoria.

87 Ervin Zukanović of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Plays for Chievo Verona, on loan from Belgian club KAA Gent. Wears his birth year. 

88 Hernanes of Brazil. Wore 8 at São Paulo and Rome club Lazio, but wears 88 at Inter.

89 Guido Marilung of Italy. Plays for Cesena, on loan from Atalanta. Wears his birth year. 

90 Duje Čop of Croatia. On loan from Dinamo Zagreb to Cagliari, where he wears his birth year. 

91 Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland. Wears 11 for his country, and also wore it for Bayern. Now wears 91 for Inter.

92 Stephan El Shaarawy of Italy. The Egyptian-descended "Il Faraone" (The Pharoah) of AC Milan wears his birth year. Wears 14 for Italy.

93 Octávio of Brazil. The Botafogo prospect is on loan to Fiorentina this season, and wears his birth year.

94 Jimmy Medranda. Wears it for Sporting Kansas City.

95 Alberto Grassi of Italy. Wears his birth year for Atalanta.

96 Andrea Palazzi of Italy. The Inter starlet wears his birth year.

97 Federico Bonazzoli of Italy. The Sampdoria player, currently on loan with Inter, also wears his birth year.

98 Hachim Mastour of Italy. The AC Milan starlet wears his birth year.

99 Ronaldo of Brazil. Wore it at AC Milan because his usual 9 wasn't available.

There have been players who've worn triple-digit numbers, usually as a one-time-only publicity stunt. Mexico, in particular, has seen a few of these worn regularly, as they have no numerical restrictions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Hockey Players By Uniform Number


Part 4 of a series. It's their NHL number that counts, not their Olympic number.

0 Neil Sheehy. Wore it with the 1988 Whalers.

00 John Davidson. Wore it only in the 1977-78 season, before switching back to the more traditional goaltender number of 30.

1 Terry Sawchuk. Ahead of Georges Vezina, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall. There have been nongoalies who've worn it, but not many. The best was probably Hall of Fame 1930s defenseman Albert "Babe" Siebert.

2 Eddie Shore. Ahead of Doug Harvey and Viacheslav Fetisov.

3 Pierre Pilote. Ahead of Emile "Butch" Bouchard.

4 Bobby Orr. That's how great you have to be to take this number ahead of Red Kelly, Jean Beliveau and Scott Stevens.

5 Denis Potvin. Ahead of Dit Clapper, Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion and Nicklas Lidstrom.

6 Larry Aurie? Toe Blake wore it very well, but his 8 Stanley Cups as a head coach do him no good here.

7 Howie Morenz. Ahead of King Clancy, Ted Lindsay, Phil Esposito, Tim Horton and Rod Gilbert.

8 Teemu Selanne. Ahead of Igor Larionov and Alexander Ovechkin.

9 Gordie Howe. Ahead of Maurice Richard, Bobby Hull and many other greats.

10 Guy Lafleur. Ahead of Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Alex Delvecchio and Ron Francis.

11 Mark Messier

12 Yvan Cournoyer. Ahead of Sid Abel and Jarome Iginla.

13 Mats Sundin. Ahead of Pavel Datsyuk.

14 Dave Keon. If Brendan Shanahan had worn it most of his career, I might have put him here.

15 Milt Schmidt

16 Bobby Clarke. Although Henri Richard won a record 11 Stanley Cups, he never meant more to the Canadiens than Clarke meant to the Flyers. Also ahead of Brett Hull.

17 Jari Kurri

18 Serge Savard. Ahead of his cousin Denis Savard.

19 Steve Yzerman. Ahead of Bryan Trottier.

20 Luc Robitaille. I can't put Vladislav Tretiak here, since, unlike Fetisov and a few other Soviet stars, we have only a few games to go on. He may have been great in a few games against NHL-caliber competition, but he wasn't facing NHL-quality teams game in, game out, 70 or 80 games a year. Next-best is Ed Belfour, who wore it with the Stars, after wearing the more familiar goalie number 30 for the Blackhawks.

21 Stan Mikita. Ahead of Guy Carbonneau and Peter Forsberg.

22 Mike Bossy

23 Bob Gainey. Ahead of Bob Nystrom.

24 Chris Chelios. Wore it with the Canadiens at the beginning and the Red Wings at the end, around wearing 7 for the Blackhawks. Ahead of Bernie Federko.

25 Jacques Lemaire. And that's due to his scoring and assisting on 8 Cup winners with the Canadiens, not his coaching the Devils to the '95 Cup. Ahead of Joe Nieuwendyk and Dave Andreychuk.

26 Peter Stastny. Ahead of Mats Naslund and Patrik Elias.

27 Frank Mahovlich. Ahead of Darryl Sittler, Teppo Numminen and Scott Niedermayer. Way ahead of Ron Hextall.

28 Steve Larmer. Ahead of Brian Rafalski.

29 Ken Dryden

30 Martin Brodeur. Ahead of any other goalie who wore the number. Including Sawhcuk, who wore 30 with the Leafs behind the more senior Johnny Bower. Don't even think of putting Henrik Lundqvist here: He's, maybe, the 4th-best goalie just in Ranger history.

31 Billy Smith. Ahead of Grant Fuhr.

32 Claude Lemieux. Wore it with the Canadiens. Wore 22 the rest of his career. Ahead of Dale Hunter.

33 Patrick Roy

34 John Vanbiesbrouck. Ahead of Al Iafrate.

35 Mike Richter. Ahead of Tony Esposito.

36 Dmitri Yushkevich. Ahead of that cheap-ass punk Matthew Barnaby, who made Hunter look like a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

37 Eric Desjardins. Wore it with the Flyers, after wearing 28 with the Canadiens. Ahead of Olaf Kolzig.

38 Pavol Demitra

39 Dominik Hasek

40 Henrik Zetterberg

41 Jocelyn Thibault

42 Sergei Makarov. Along with Fetisov and Tretiak, the only player from the Soviet national teams I thought worthy of mentioning for their NHL achievements, and the only one to actually "win a number." (Number 89 on this list didn't have his best years in Russia.)

43 Martin Biron. As a rookie with the Sabres, was one of the few players ever to wear 00.

44 Stephane Richer. On merit, not just because his overtime goal past Vanbiesbrouck won the 1st live game I ever saw -- or because he was the only mentioned scorer in the Devils-Rangers game on the Seinfeld episode "The Face Painter." Next-best would be Rob Niedermayer. (Speaking of brothers: Although all 6 Sutter brothers were good, and Brian got his Number 11 retired by the Blues, I didn't think any of them was good enough to come in 1st with any number.

45 Arron Asham

46 Andrei Kostitsyn

47 Rich Pilon

48 Danny Briere. Ahead of Jean-Jacques "J.J." Daignault.

49 Brian Savage

50 Chris Mason. Anthony Brodeur is wearing it in the minors, so if he ever makes it to the Devils, expect him to wear that, instead of his father's 30, regardless of whether it's already retired by that point (as now seems likely).

51 Brian Campbell

52 Adam Foote

53 Derek Morris

54 Paul Ranger. Wore it for the Lightning. Meaning he was a Ranger wearing a blue shirt and didn't suck.

55 Larry Murphy

56 Sergei Zubov

57 Blake Comeau

58 Kris Letang

59 Ed Jovanovski. "Jovocop" wore it as a Panthers rookie before switching to his more familiar 55, but he can't take that away from Murphy.

60 Jose Theodore

61 Rick Nash

62 Paul Stastny. Started out wearing his father's 26, then reversed it.

63 Mike Ribeiro

64 Jamie McGinn

65 Mark Napier. Wore it with the Oilers and Sabres, after wearing 31 with the Cup-winning late Seventies Canadiens.

66 Mario Lemieux. Milan Novy of the 1982-83 Capitals was the only player to wear it in the NHL before him, and only 3 players have worn it after him.

67 Michael Frolik

68 Jaromir Jagr. Wore it in honor of the 1968 Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia's rebellion against Soviet rule, which didn't end well.

69 Melvin Angelstad. The only NHL player to wear it, with the '04 Capitals.

70 Oleg Tverdovsky. Wore 10 on the Devils' '03 Cup win, and wore 70 only in the '06 season, winning another Cup with the Hurricanes.

71 Evgeni Malkin. Ahead of Nick Foligno, who wears it to reverse his father Mike's 17.

72 John Tonelli. Wore it toward the end of his career, with the '92 Blackhawks, reversing the 27 he starred in for the Cup-winning early Eighties Islanders. Ahead of Mathieu Schneider, who wore 11 different numbers, including 27 with the Cup-winning '93 Canadiens, before reversing it with the Isles and Leafs.

73 Michael Ryder

74 Jay McKee. Ahead of T.J. Oshie, at least for the time being.

75 Walt Poddubny. The former Ranger star wore it with the '89 Nordiques.

76 Patrick "P.K." Subban

77 Ray Bourque. Famously accepted it after the Bruins retired 7 for Phil Esposito, who infamously asked for 7 when traded to the Rangers, but Rod Gilbert wouldn't give it up, so Phil took 77 there.

78 Marc Pouliot

79 Alexei Yashin. One of the great busts in NHL history, he never quite panned out while wearing 19 for the Senators. Switched to 79 upon reaching the Isles, because it was retired for Trottier.

80 Nik Antropov

81 Miroslav Satan. Had worn 18 in his native Czech Republic, and 32 with the Oilers, but reversed 18 to 81 with the Sabres. When 18 became available, he wore it, but went back to 81 with the Isles, Penguins and Bruins. In spite of his name -- pronounced Sha-TANN, not SAY-tin -- he not only never played for the Devils, but always seemed to play well against them.

82 Martin Straka

83 Ales Hemsky

84 Guillaume Latendresse. Arrived in the NHL with the '07 Canadiens, and his wearing of 84 made that the last unused uniform number in the league's history -- unless a team wants to one day use a triple-digit number. Reversed it to 48 with the Wild, and switched to 73 with the Senators.

85 Petr Klima

86 Wojtek Wolski. Today is the Pole's 29th birthday. He wore 8 with the Avalanche, but when it wasn't available with the Coyotes, he switched to honor the year of his birth, 1986. He last played with the Capitals in 2013, wearing 17.

87 Sidney Crosby. Wore it to match his birthdate: August 7, 1987, or 8/7/87.

88 Eric Lindros. Wore it in tribute to Number 99 and Number 66, but wasn't the 1st player to wear it in the NHL. Ken Hodge, who'd worn 8 with the Bruins, wore 88 with the '77 and '78 Rangers. Garry Howatt wore it with the expansion Devils of 1982-83. Rocky Trottier, Bryan's considerably less talented younger brother, wore it with the Devils the next season. Joe Sakic wore it as a rookie with the '89 Nordiques, before switching to 19. And Owen Nolan wore it with the Nords in '91. At any rate, Patrick Kane may go on to surpass him.

89 Alexander Mogilny. Wore it to celebrate the year he defected from the Soviet Union, 1989.

90 Joe Juneau

91 Sergei Fedorov

92 Jeff O'Neill

93 Doug Gilmour. Ahead of Petr Nedved.

94 Ryan Smyth

95 Aleksey Morozov

96 Tomas Holmstrom. Pavel Bure, usually 10, wore it for 3 seasons; Phil Housley wore it for 1 game for the Leafs (who'd retired his usual 6 for Ace Bailey).

97 Jeremy Roenick. Wore it with the Coyotes, Flyers and Kings, after wearing 27 with the Blackhawks. Went back to 27 to close his career with the Sharks.

98 Brian Lawton. The only player ever to wear it, with the North Stars, before switching to 8, which the Stars later retired for Bill Goldsworthy.

99 Wayne Gretzky. Believe it or not, he wasn't the 1st NHL player to wear it. Wilf Paiement wore it with the Leafs from 1979 to 1982. Rick Dudley wore it with the '81 Jets. But neither of them was the 1st to wear it in an NHL game, either. In fact, it goes back a lot further than you might think.

In the 1934-35 season, 3 brief callups to the Canadiens wore it: Joe Lamb, Des Roche and Leo Bourgeault. Apparently, it was a number given out in practice as an extra, but it got into games. Those '34-'35 Habs also had a 55, Jack McGill; a 64, Armand Mondou; a 75, Jack Portland; and an 88, Roger Jenkins. For those of you who are admirers of Patrick Roy, they also had a 33: Jack Riley, as seen in the photo above, with Lamb (who did score 3 goals that season) wearing 99. Bourgeault also wore 5, 11, 12 and 15 in his NHL career, all with the Habs. Portland also wore 3, 15 and 17. Mondou usually wore 5. Jenkins usually wore 8 with the Habs, and it was also one of the numbers he wore with the Hawks. Lamb wore 9 with the Wings (years before Gordie Howe did). McGill usually wore 11 with the Habs. Riley wore 11 with the Wings. Portland wore 11 with the Hawks. Riley usually wore 14 with the Habs. Roche also wore 75 with the Habs, and wore 14 with the Wings.

Best Basketball Players By Uniform Number


Part 3 of a series. Remember, it's a player's NBA number that matters. Some guys wore more than one number.

As with NFL officials and their excuse about eligible receivers, basketball players traditionally don't wear numbers beginning or ending in 6, 7, 8 or 9 because referees need to be able to use hand signals to say who committed a foul, and there's only 5 fingers on a hand. So, while this was never written into the rules, the number of players wearing numbers in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s was tiny until recent years.

0 Gilbert Arenas

00 Robert Parish

1 Oscar Robertson. Wore it with the Bucks, after wearing 14 with the Cincinnati Royals. Ahead of Nate "Tiny" Archibald (who wore it longer than 7 or 10), Tracy McGready and Chauncey Billups.

2 Moses Malone. Wore it with the 76ers, but wore 24 with most other teams.

3 Dwayne Wade. Ahead of Allen Iverson.

03 Frank "Pep" Saul. In the 1950s, including in their 1951 NBA Championship season, the Rochester Royals (the team now known as the Sacramento Kings) experimented with 2-digit uniform numbers starting with zero. Saul also wore 10, 18 and 33 in the NBA.

4 Dolph Schayes. Joe Dumars was a very good player, but his achievements as an executive don't help him here.

5 Bill Walton. Wore it with the Celtics, after wearing 32 everywhere else (Kevin McHale had it), and won a title, putting him ahead of Jason Kidd.

6 Bill Russell. No, LeBron James doesn't get to wear it. Not just because he's won 9 fewer titles, but because Russell was a better player. LeBron doesn't even get in line ahead of Julius "Dr. J" Erving, who wore it with the 76ers.

7 Pete Maravich. Wore it with the Jazz, after wearing 19 and 44 with the Hawks.

07 Paul Noel. Another '51 Royal.

8 Kobe Bryant. Wore it longer than he's worn 24, and won more titles with it.

9 Bob Pettit

09 Bobby Wanzer. Another '51 Royal.

10 Walt "Clyde" Frazier

11 Isiah Thomas

12 John Stockton

13 Wilt Chamberlain

14 Bob Cousy

15 Earl "the Pearl" Monroe. Wore it with the Knicks, after wearing 10 with the Bullets. Ahead of Hal Greer. And don't even think about putting Vince Carter here.

16 Bob Lanier

17 John Havlicek

18 Dave Cowens

19 Willis Reed

20 Gary Payton. Ahead of Maurice Lucas.

21 Tim Duncan. He has surpassed Bill Sharman.

22 Dave DeBusschere. No, not Elgin Baylor. The Lakers didn't win a title until he retired. Nor Clyde "the Glide" Drexler.

23 Michael Jordan. No, LeBron doesn't get this number, either.

24 Rick Barry. Ahead of Sam Jones and Bill Bradley.

25 Gus Johnson. No, not the broadcaster. Playing for the Bullets in the Sixties, this one was one of the first great dunkers. Ahead of K.C. Jones.

26 Buddy Jeannette. Player-coach of the 1948 NBA Champion Baltimore Bullets, who went out of business in 1954 and have no tangible connection to the team that played under the name from 1963 to 1973 and is now known as the Washington Wizards.

27 Jack Twyman

28 Wayne Embry

29 Paul Silas. Wore it with the Hawks and Suns. Better known for wearing 35 with the Celtics and SuperSonics.

30 George McGinnis

31 Reggie Miller

32 Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Shaquille O'Neal wore it with Orlando, but he's not ahead of this Magic. Nor is Dr. J, who wore it with the Nets.

33 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Ahead of Larry Bird.

34 Hakeem Olajuwon. Shaq wore it with L.A., but he's not ahead of Hakeem. Nor is Charles Barkley. Nor is Paul Pierce.

35 Reggie Lewis

36 Lloyd Neal

37 Derek Fisher. Wore it with the '12 Thunder.

38 Kwame Brown. Wore it with the '08 and '09 Pistons.

39 Greg Ostertag. Better known for wearing 00, wore it in his return to the Jazz in 2000 and '01.

40 Bill Laimbeer

41 Dirk Nowitzki. Has surpassed Wes Unseld.

42 James Worthy

43 Brad Daugherty

44 Jerry West. No, Celtic fans, you can't count Danny Ainge's achievements as an executive, because, if you did, you'd have to count West's, too.

45 A.C. Green. Rudy Tomjanovich was a very good player, but his coaching achievements don't count here.

46 Bo Outlaw. Wore it with the '05 Suns.

47 Andrei Kirilenko. His number, his initials and his nationality got him nicknamed "AK-47."

48 Nazr Mohammed. Currently wearing it with the Bulls.

49 Shandon Anderson

50 David Robinson

51 Michael Doleac

52 Buck Williams

53 Darryl Dawkins

54 Horace Grant

55 Dikembe Mutombo

56 Brandon Hunter. Wore it with the '04 Celtics.

57 Hilton Armstrong. Wore it with last year's Warriors.

58 Never worn

59 Never worn

60 Walt Kirk. Wore it with the 1949 Indianapolis Jets.

61 Bevo Nordmann. Wore it with the '62 Royals.

62 Bob Dille. Wore it in the NBA's 1st season, with the 1946-47 Detroit Falcons. Scot Pollard. Wore it with the 2004-06 Pacers.

63 Never worn

64 Never worn

65 George Ratkovicz. Wore it with the 1950 Syracuse Nationals.

66 Scot Pollard. Wore it with the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics. Also the only player besides Dille to wear 62 in a regular-season game.

67 Moe Becker. Another '47 Falcon.

68 Milt Schoon. Another '47 Falcon.

69 Never worn

70 Chuck Share. Wore it on the 1958 NBA Champion St. Louis Hawks.

71 Willie Naulls. Wore it with the 1963 San Francisco Warriors.

72 Jason Kapono. Wore it with the '10 and '11 76ers.

73 Dennis Rodman. He is the only player to wear the number, doing so briefly at the end of his career, with the '99 Lakers. Better-known for wearing 10 with the Pistons and 91 with the Bulls.

74 Never worn

75 Never worn

76 Shawn Bradley. Wore it because he was 7-foot-6. That he also played for the 76ers was probably the most interesting this about this incredibly pedestrian player. Manute Bol, who was also 7-foot-6, wore 10 and 11.

77 Gheorghe Muresan. Wore it with the Bullets and Nets because he was 7-foot-7, making him the tallest player in NBA history.

78 Never worn. Probably won't be, until some freak comes in at 7-foot-8, and then would only wear it if his team's owner had a sense of humor.

79 Never worn

80 Never worn

81 Never worn

82 Never worn

83 Craig Smith. Wore it with the '12 Trail Blazers.

84 Chris Webber. Wore it with the '07 Pistons, after usually wearing 4.

85 Baron Davis. Wore it with the '11 Cavaliers and the '12 Knicks. Usually wore 1.

86 Chris Johnson. Wore it with the '11 Celtics. Has usually worn 20.

87 Never worn

88 Antoine Walker. Wore it in his '05 return to the Celtics, after usually wearing 8.

89 Clyde Lovellette. Wore it with the '54 Minneapolis Lakers. Usually wore 4 or 34.

90 Drew Gooden. Now with the Wizards, and in his 11th season as the only player ever to wear the number,

91 Ron Artest/Metta World Peace. Wore it with the '05 Pacers. Rodman was better while wearing it, but he's also the only player ever to wear another number in an NBA game.

92 DeShawn Stevenson. Wore it with the 2011 NBA Champion Mavericks.

93 P.J. Brown. Wore it with the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics. Metta World Peace was better while wearing it, but he's also the best at another number.

94 Evan Fournier. Wore it with the '13 and '14 Nuggets.

95 Never worn

96 Don Ray. Wore it with the 1950 Tri-Cities Blackhawks, the team that became the Milwaukee Hawks in 1951, the St. Louis Hawks in 1955, and the Atlanta Hawks in 1958. Metta World Peace was better while wearing it, but he's also the best at another number.

97 Never worn

98 Jason Collins. The NBA's 1st openly gay player wore it with the '13 Celtics and Wizards and the '14 Nets, in memory of Matthew Shepard, murdered for being gay in 1998. Also worn by a '47 Falcon, Chet Abuchon.

99 George Mikan

No NBA player has ever worn a triple-digit number.

Best Football Players By Uniform Number


Part 2 of a series. Remember, this is only about professional numbers, not what they wore in college. Some players wore very different numbers when going from college to the pros. Also, some wore more than one number in the pros.

The NFL is the only league -- at least, the only one since soccer stopped forcing players to wear a number assigned to their position in the early 1990s -- to assign numbers to positions. Why? As this ESPN.com article explains, it's because the officials need to know who is an eligible receiver, and who is not. (Except college and even high school officials don't seem to have that problem; you would think pro officials would be even better.)

Players who had worn numbers not fitting that rule before it was put in place in 1973 were "grandfathered in," but that numerical scheme has remained in place, unaltered, with one exception: In 2004, it was decided that receivers could wear 10 through 19 as well as 80 through 89.

00 Jim Otto. It was a play on his name, which is pronounced AUGHT-oh, or zero-zero. Ken Burrough is the only other player to wear 00 in the NFL. Writer George Plimpton famously wore 0 in training camp, and even in an exhibition game, with the 1963 Lions (as told in his book Paper Lion, and in the film based on it, starring a pre-M*A*S*H Alan Alda), but, as far as I can tell, no player has ever worn 0 in a regular-season game. And, unless the rules change, no player will ever again wear zero or double-zero.

1 Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard. As you might guess from his full name, he was black, and was the 1st great black player in the NFL, before the color barrier fell in 1933. He was a back on both sides of the ball, and was player-coach of the 1st NFL Champions, the 1920 Akron Pros -- making him the 1st black head coach in North American major league sports, 46 years before Bill Russell, and 69 years before Art Shell was the next black head coach in the NFL. He gets this number, ahead of Warren Moon. Jim Thorpe also wore Number 1, and 2, and 31, but didn't wear any long enough to be considered the greatest at that number. Honestly, as great as he was -- clearly the greatest football and track performer of the 1910s, also a very good baseball player, and perhaps still the greatest all-around athlete this nation has ever produced -- by the time the NFL was founded in 1920, he was past his prime

2 Charley Trippi

3 Bronislau "Bronko" Nagurski

4 Brett Favre. Ahead of Twenties Cardinal great Ernie Nevers.

5 Paul Hornung. He's the greatest player who ever lived. Just ask him. Okay, he wasn't, but he was a college quarterback and a pro running back and kicker, for decades holding the NFL's single-season points-scoring record. He was one of the mainstays of the 1960s Packer dynasty. I love Donovan McNabb, but Hornung never threw up during an NFL Championship Game. (Yes, Bill Russell threw up before many an NBA game, but he won 11 more titles than McNabb. Hornung won 4 more.)

6 Benny Friedman. The Giants quarterback of the late Twenties and early Thirties didn't quite invent the position of quarterback as we understand it today -- that would be Number 33 below -- but he was the NFL's 1st great passer.

7 John Elway

8 Steve Young

9 Drew Brees. Ahead of Sonny Jurgensen.

10 Fran Tarkenton

11 Norm Van Brocklin. It's been over 50 years, but he's still the last man to quarterback the Eagles to an NFL Championship, and the only man to quarterback 2 different teams to titles. It's been over 60 years, but he still holds the record for passing yards in a game: 554, for the Rams, on the way to the '51 title.

12 Terry Bradshaw. Sorry, Joe Namath, but 4 rings beats 1, no matter how important that 1 was. Sorry, Randall Cunningham, I know it was much more Buddy Ryan's fault than yours that you didn't win one. Not sorry, Tom Brady, but the next Super Bowl you win without your team cheating will be your first.

13 Guy Chamberlin. Not the greatest Chamberl(a)in to wear Number 13 on a sports team in Philadelphia, but a genuine NFL star of the Twenties who won 5 NFL Championships, including as a player-coach with the 1st Philadelphia-based team to win it, the 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets. Yes, he's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame, too, despite playing for Nebraska Wesleyan before transferring to Nebraska. This puts him ahead of the most overrated football player who ever lived, Dan Marino.

14 Don Hutson. A tough call ahead of Otto Graham, who got the Browns to their league's championship game all 10 years he played (1946-49 AAFC, 1950-55 NFL, winning in '46, '47, '48, '49, '50, '54 & '55). But Hutson practically invented the position of wide receiver. He lived long enough to say that Jerry Rice was better than he was, but that's what it took to surpass him as the greatest receiver ever.

15 Steve Van Buren. This was a close one: Bart Starr is the only quarterback to win 5 NFL Championships, but he was never the best quarterback in the game, due to Number 19. In contrast, Van Buren was, for several years, the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

16 Joe Montana

17 Richie Petitbon. A close call over Harold Carmichael.

18 Peyton Manning

19 Johnny Unitas

20 Barry Sanders

21 LaDainian Tomlinson. Ahead of Deion Sanders.

22 Emmitt Smith. Ahead of Bobby Layne.

23 Troy Vincent

24 Johnny McNally, a.k.a. Johnny Blood. A star with the early Packers, helped them win 4 titles between 1929 and 1936. Willie Wood, Willie Brown and Champ Bailey are the best 24s since.

25 Tommy McDonald. The shortest player in the Hall of Fame, and the last man to play without a facemask (1966). And he didn't need stickum, unlike Fred Biletnikoff. Don Shula wore it as a player, and was a good defensive back. If I were including coaching achievements, I'd put him ahead of McDonald. But it doesn't work that way.

26 Rod Woodson. Ahead of Herb Adderley.

27 Ken Houston. Wore it in Washington, having worn 29 in Houston. Ahead of Steve Atwater.

28 Marshall Faulk. Those Rams won just 1 Super Bowl, so it's easy to forget just how great an all-around player Faulk was. Ahead of Darrell Green and Curtis Martin.

29 Eric Dickerson. It's been over 30 years, but he still holds the NFL record for rushing yards in a single season.

30 Terrell Davis. Ahead of Clarke Hinkle, the NFL's all-time leading rusher until surpassed by Van Buren.

31 Jim Taylor. Aside from John Riggins, no white man has rushed for more yards. And he's the only man who took a rushing title away from...

32 Jim Brown. A lot of great running backs have worn it, but in 1999, The Sporting News published its 100 Greatest Football Players, and Brown came out Number 1 among all players. You can make a case that Jerry Rice eventually put up career stats to surpass him, but, among running backs, Brown is still the greatest.

33 Sammy Baugh. The greatest all-around player ever might not be Brown: In 1943, Slingin' Sammy led the NFL in passing yards, interceptions (of other quarterbacks), and punting yardage. In his time, he was Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman and Marquette King, all at the same time. He's also the only rookie quarterback to lead his team to the NFL Championship, the '37 Redskins, and won another title in '42. He probably would've won them in '40 and '43, too, if the Bears hadn't been so dominant in that time. You can debate whether he was the 1st great quarterback (he preceded Sid Luckman, if not Benny Friedman), but his place in history is gigantic. He's also the only player whose number has been officially retired by the Redskins. (They've kept a few others out of circulation.)

34 Walter Payton

35 John Henry Johnson. A tough call, slightly ahead of Pete Pihos, Paul "Tank" Younger and Aeneas Williams.

36 Jerome Bettis. Marion Motley wore it late in his career, after the Browns did a major number shift.

37 Doak Walker. Ahead of Shaun Alexander. Rodney Harrison is ineligble, and you know why. You don't? Okay, here's why: He played for Bill Belichick's Patriots.

38 Arnie Herber

39 Larry Csonka. Ahead of Hugh McElhenny and Stephen Jackson.

40 Gale Sayers. Vince Lombardi wore it as a guard at Fordham, but I doubt he would have been a great NFL lineman if he hadn't gone straight into coaching. And even if he had, he wouldn't be ahead of Sayers. If you only know him from having seen Brian's Song, know this: Gale Sayers was Barry Sanders before Sanders was even born.

41 Eugene Robinson. Forget his pre-Super Bowl indiscretion: The man was a great player. Ahead of Keith Byars.

42 Sid Luckman. The 1st man to quarterback 4 NFL Championships gets in a bit ahead of Ronnie Lott, arguably the greatest defensive back ever; and Charley Taylor, the former all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, who toiled for an inconsistent Redskins team in the Sixties and Seventies and never won anything.

43 Troy Polamalu. He has surpassed Larry Brown, who starred alongside Charley Taylor on those Redskin teams despite being mostly deaf.

44 John Riggins

45 Emlen Tunnell. The former all-time leader in interceptions was the 1st black man elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

46 Todd Christensen

47 Mel Blount. Until Number 55 on this list came along, he had the best name of any defensive player ever: He could have been nicknamed "The Blount Instrument."

48 Stephen Davis? President Gerald Ford was an All-America center at Michigan -- playing both sides -- but he only wore it in college, so that doesn't count.

49 Bobby Mitchell. Paul Brown's distraction for Jim Brown on the late Fifties Browns, he then became the 1st black player on the Redskins, and helped lift them from league doormat status in the Sixties. A close 2nd is Tom Landry, and that's got nothing to do with his coaching. While still playing for the Giants, he became the 1st true defensive coordinator in the NFL, helping to invent 2-platoon football, and became the 1st great defensive back who wasn't also playing offensive back (either quarterback or running back). He could have been elected to the Hall of Fame as a player, if what he had done as a coach wasn't forefront in people's minds.

50 Mike Singletary. Like Number 92 on this list, he was an ordained minister, and was the 1st man to have the nickname "The Minister of Defense." Like hockey legend Maurice Richard, he could scare you with his eyes alone.

51 Dick Butkus

52 Ray Lewis. Surpassing Mike Webster.

53 Mick Tinglehoff. Slightly ahead of Jeff Bostic and Harry Carson. Bill Romanowski can kiss my ass.

54 Randy White. Ahead of Brian Urlacher.

55 Junior Seau. What a great name for a defensive player: It's pronounced "Say ow." What a tragic story.

56 Lawrence Taylor

57 Dwight Stephenson

58 Jack Lambert, who lined up for the Seventies Steel Curtain next to...

59 Jack Ham

60 Chuck Bednarik. Had Otto Graham worn a single number throughout his career, I'd put him at that number; but he didn't wear 60 long enough to be ahead of Bednarik, and he didn't wear 14 long enough to be ahead of Hutson.

61 Bill George

62 Jim Langer

63 Willie Lanier. A close call ahead of Gene Upshaw and Dermontti Dawson.

64 Jerry Kramer. Ahead of Randall McDaniel, and 49ers legends Dave Wilcox and Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds.

65 Elvin Bethea. Chuck Noll wore it, and was a very good guard, but his coaching triumphs don't count for anything here.

66 Ray Nitschke. Ahead of Joe Jacoby: He might have been the best member of the Eighties Redskins' "Hogs," but Nitschke was one of the best linebackers ever. If he'd played for the Giants, people would still be saying he was better than LT.

67 Bob Kuechenberg

68 Russ Grimm. Ahead of L.C. Greenwood.

69 Jared Allen. He has surpassed Tim Krumrie.

70 Sam Huff. He was the 1st truly great linebacker, following the early Fifties switch to 2-platoon football, getting it done for the Giants before LT was even born.

71 Alex Karras

72 Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Don't tell me about how versatile William "the Refrigerator" Perry was.

73 Leo Nomellini. Ahead of John Hannah.

74 Merlin Olsen. Ahead of Bob Lilly.

75 Mean Joe Greene. Ahead of Deacon Jones.

76 Marion Motley

77 Red Grange. Uniform numbers were first developed in football, and the 77 that the Galloping Ghost brought from the University of Illinois to the Bears was the 1st great uniform number in sports. The best 77 since has been Jim Parker.

78 Anthony Munoz. Slightly ahead of Art Shell, and that's got nothing to do with Shell's role as the 1st modern black head coach: He was nearly as good an offensive tackle as Munoz. Also close behind is Bobby Bell.

79 Roosevelt Brown

80 Jerry Rice

81 Dick "Night Train" Lane. Before Lott was considered, by many, the greatest defensive back ever, it was hard to question that it was Lane. I'd love to have seen him cover another great 81, Terrell Owens.

82 Raymond Berry

83 Ted Hendricks. The Baltimore Colts and the Oakland Raiders had very different reputations. Somehow, "the Mad Stork" -- one of the greatest nicknames in any sport -- fit in well with both franchises.

84 Randy Moss. This is a reluctant pick, but, like Ray Lewis and LT, you have to put your opinion of his character aside, and give credit where it is due.

85 Jack Youngblood

86 Buck Buchanan. Ahead of Hines Ward.

87 Willie Davis

88 Lynn Swann. Ahead of Alan Page: 4 rings beats none. Also ahead of John Mackey, who practically invented the position of tight end, along with...

89 Mike Ditka, and that's got nothing to do with his coaching. He was elected to the Hall of Fame as a player, you know. Ahead of Gino Marchetti.

90 Julius Peppers. Ahead of Neil Smith.

91 Kevin Greene. Ahead of Leslie O'Neal.

92 Reggie White

93 John Randle

94 Charles Haley. DeMarcus Ware has not surpassed him.

95 Richard Dent

96 Cortez Kennedy. A close call over Clyde Simmons.

97 Bryant Young

98 Jessie Armstead

99 Warren Sapp. A close call over Forties Cardinal Marshall "Biggie" Goldberg.

There has never been an NFL player wearing a triple-digit number.