Numbers Game

jersey numbers

By Phil Hecken

After last weekend’s highly popular “What is Each City’s Most Sacred Uniform Number?” piece (in fact aside from the huge number of reader comments in the actual comments section, I received a boatload of E-mails on this), I thought a bit of a riff on that topic might be a fun follow-up.

“What number is the MOST important to each sport?”

By that I mean, when we think of a sport, there are certain numbers that are in and of themselves “sacred,” regardless of what team or player is wearing said number. Let’s take the sport of soccer (football for those of us not reading in North America) — I admittedly don’t know much about the sport of soccer, but I do know this — traditionally the ‘best’ player on each squad is assigned (or requests) the number 10. In fact, better writers than I have opined that “a player who wore his team’s No. 10 shirt represented the most influential or creative force on the field. More specifically, the number was often given to a team’s best playmaker.”

But that’s specific to soccer — how about the other sports? I’d have to say that football, due to it’s somewhat rigid numbering system, and which basically requires certain skill players to wear certain numbers, while other great players wore higher numbers, offers some good choices position. But usually, we think of the great football players at the positions of quarterback, running back or wide receiver. Or sometimes all three. But what’s the “best” number? Growing up, I always thought the best quarterbacks wore Number 12, running backs were Number 32, and more recently, the best wide receivers wore Number 80. But what is the number the “best” football player wears? Can we even assign one — or is that something that we need to argue over on a position-by-position basis?

The other sports are less clear-cut — although you could make an argument in baseball that the two most important numbers were Number 3 and Number 42, I don’t think of those as “quintessential” baseball numbers. I know that growing up (granted, there weren’t all that many numbers to choose from), no one really wanted #3 (#42 was almost never available), but a lot of the kids wanted to wear Number 5 or Number 7. But no one in my neighborhood was particularly a Johnny Bench fan, and the Mick was a bit before our time. I happened to like Number 2, but that was long before Jeter made it popular (and before he was born), and I’d have been hard-pressed at the time to name any major leaguers who sported that number.

I didn’t play a lot of hoop or hockey, but if given the choice of a uni number then, I also chose “2” — yet in football, I always wanted to wear “32” because to me, that was the football number (that and I wasn’t much of a quarterback). In hoop, some guy named Jordan hadn’t popularized ’23’ so I always liked numbers of the popular players — #32, #33 and #10, and I guess I’d think of those as the numbers that defined hoop players.

Hockey, similarly, drew me to #5, #10 and #4. Still, I don’t really think of any of those as “hockey numbers” per se. One could make an argument that the number for hockey is #99, but who else besides the Great One has worn it? Ergo, unlike soccer’s #10, I would never consider 99 to be hockey’s quintessential digits.

So, if we were to even attempt to place a “number” that is THE number for sport, how would we do it and what would it be? Could we even assign just one number (or two or three)? And if so, would we do so by assigning that number to the best player of that sport who ever wore the number (say, Gretzky or Jordan, with 99 & 23 respectively), or would it be because of a history of great players (like #12 or #32 in football) having worn it? Or is it something else? Like, does Ruth’s #3 or Jackie’s #42 deserve such a lofty place that either or both could define baseball. Is that even possible?

What say you readers? Let’s play the numbers game.


Benchies HeaderBenchies

by Rick Pearson


Mick’s retelling of this varies ever-so-slightly…

3-10-12 d-this place

And of course, the full-size.


all sport uni tweaksUni Tweaks Concepts

We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.

So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.

Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.

And so, lets begin:


We start with Allen Wahlström, who has a tweak for the Horned Toads:


So with the NIKE leak of a week ago, I thought of something along the same line of thought and “tweaked” it.
Going to the Big 12 with staid helmet decals kept me in check, and I went for simple but bold and aggressive

Stay Safe,

Allen Wahlström


Next up is John Majka, who has a special new logo for next year’s Miami Marlins:


Just after the new Marlins’ logo was leaked, I thought I’d take a stab at patch design for the Marlins’ 20th Anniversary (or Season… math is not my strong suit!)

John Majka


And we close with kind of an odd one. Bryan Moss, who has ideas for the msPaint Chiefs & Panthers:


Just put together a couple of concepts

Kansas City


Roll Tide,


And that’s it for today. Back with more tomorrow.


And Finally…

When you think your team enters the season without hope, well Ya Gotta Believe. (h/t to Dan Cichalski)

OK everyone. Have a great Saturday and I will catch you fine folks tomorrow.


“Non-Irish people seem to get a kick out of wearing green plastic crap and drinking in public.” — Conn Nugent

146 comments to Numbers Game

  • FatMagz | March 10, 2012 at 7:12 am |

    Am I the only one that hates everything about the be Marlins look? I have relatives in Miami and spent a lot of time there growing and now as an adult and those colors do nothing for me. The palm trees? Yes. The nod to the sunny weather? Yes. But I just can’t get the whole package. Sorry.

    • Mike D | March 10, 2012 at 11:05 am |

      I agree. I think it’s a downgrade from the previous uniform. The worst part of it for me is their number fonts. They look horrible and cartoonish.

  • BurghFan | March 10, 2012 at 7:22 am |

    As bad as this matchup was last night from a uni standpoint, the players were worse.

    • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 7:29 am |

      Ugh. Wow, that’s bad. What kind of idiot allowed that to happen?

    • HHH | March 10, 2012 at 11:36 am |

      Yeah, I made a comment on Uni Watch about that game last night while I watching it. It wasn’t just the white vs silver/cream/champagne jerseys that looked too similar. Both teams were also wearing pants the same color as their jerseys. When you combine that with the fact that both teams had black helmets and black numbers, the only real contrast between the two teams’ uniforms were the yellow socks and yellow sleeves being worn by Pittsburgh, and even then only SOME of the players were wearing them.

      The game was painful and confusing enough to watch at this point, but then I noticed that even the helmet logos of the two teams were similar. Both the Predators and the Power have “P” logos with yellow in them!

      • BurghFan | March 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

        I was aware of the labor issues yesterday, but your post last night was what got me to find a photo, and I wouldn’t have realized those were two different teams had I not expected it.

  • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 7:26 am |

    I think if you’re gonna pick a number to represent a sport, then it has to be a number that’s commonly used in that sport. If you’re making uniform concepts, what number would you pick to represent the generic player?

    So for baseball, 42 is out, because it’s been elevated to a status where NO ONE can wear it. It’s sacred to, but not a good representation of the sport.

  • johnny_f | March 10, 2012 at 7:39 am |

    Time for the golfer to chime in! I know it’s a different angle….. but there’s definitely a number that represents the sport. 59!

  • George Chilvers | March 10, 2012 at 7:40 am |

    Sorry to disagree, Phil – but number 10 isn’t THE number in football/soccer.

    While there were big names who wore other numbers the number every schoolkid wanted was the number 9, the centre-forward – the goalscorer.

    Dixie Dean, Bobby Smith, Alan Shearer, Alan Clarke, Bobby Charlton, Malcolm McDonald, John Toshack…… Even in recent times with squad number snumber 9 is treasured – when he was at Anfield there was a song for “Fernan-do To-rres Liverpool number 9”

    • johnny_f | March 10, 2012 at 7:50 am |

      10 is DEFINITELY THE great number in soccer. With numbers, there are always exceptions to the rules. But the #10 is legendary in soccer.

      • George Chilvers | March 10, 2012 at 8:50 am |

        It’s not legendary where the game is called football not soccer ;)

        • Tom G | March 10, 2012 at 9:19 am |

          George, the names you gave are British only. 10 has historically been the number associated with greatness, the number worn by star players: Pele, Maradona, Platini, Matthaus, Baggio, Bergkamp, Zidane, Ronaldinho, and the greatest player right now in Messi. I believe that 9 has always been a close 2nd choice although it may have surpassed number 10 in recent years.

        • George Chilvers | March 10, 2012 at 9:26 am |

          You mean they’re letting foreigners play football now?? :0

          Whatever next……. ;)

        • Connie | March 10, 2012 at 10:53 am |

          Great exchange!

          And “thanks,” Phil, for the quote of the day.

        • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |

          keep ’em coming

    • Shane | March 10, 2012 at 10:05 am |

      And as a Manchester United fan, it’s always been 7 as THE number for me.

      • Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

        Who really plays a 4-3-3 anymore? Plus, the original distribution of numbers was based on position. But now, with players now choosing their numbers instead of their starting position selecting it, I’m agreeing that 10 is more THE number in associated football than any other.

  • Chris | March 10, 2012 at 7:47 am |

    That Marlin’s patch is pretty sweet, except for the part where you ripped off the Rays sunburst.

    • Jeremiah | March 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |

      I was going to say exactly the same thing. It’s a great patch, but for the sunburst. Without it, it’s still a great patch.

  • Matt13 | March 10, 2012 at 7:48 am |

    This conversation reminds me of John Madden trying to assign numbers to celebrities in his autobiography.

  • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 7:55 am |

    I really like the idea on the Panthers tweak: the leaping Panther logo. Looks cool.

    Hm. Sacred numbers? American football is my forte, and I think you’re right with 12. 7 can be up there with its allusion to a speedy QB. I know now, 28 is a big RB number (AP, CJ2K, Fred Taylor…). Usually 20 is big in the RB/DB category. I think you could make a bigger case for 88 as opposed to 80.

    I’m gonna have to look into this.

    • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 8:04 am |

      Tecmo Bowl, the first video game to feature actual NFL player names (but unnamed teams), used a pre-rendered cutscene when you scored a TD – 2 players high-fiving. Same scene every time, using the colors of whatever team was playing. Their numbers: 12 and 32.

      Case closed.

      • HHH | March 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

        I’m pretty sure that Tecmo Bowl high five cutscene is actually a rotoscope of NFL Films footage of Walter Payton high-fiving a teammate after he broke the all-time career rushing yards record. If this is true, it strengthens your argument about the importance of number 32 in football, since Payton wore 34.

        Also, the fact they chose the other player’s number to be 12 shows just how important that number was in football at the time of the game’s release. It seemed like all the best quarterbacks wore number 12, at least the ones that made it to and usually won the Super Bowl: Griese, Stabler, Bradshaw, Namath, and Staubach all wore number 12. And this was right before Kelly made it to 4 consecutive Super Bowls, and waaaaay before Brady became a household name. 12 was already a legendary number in football when they made Tecmo Bowl, but Kelly and Brady just furthered the legend.

        • HHH | March 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

          Here is the NFL Films footage of Payton doing the Tecmo Bowl high five. He broke the rushing record in 1984 and Tecmo Bowl was released in 1988. The two high fives look extremely similar so the one in Tecmo Bowl HAD to have been based on Payton’s high five.

        • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

          I never saw that before… interesting. I’d always assumed they just drew it for the game.

          Nonetheless, 12 and 32 – and oddly enough, I don’t think any of the 12 teams in the game actually had both of those numbers at the time, at least not as starters.

    • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 8:21 am |

      Says you, Kyle. 34 in navy blue & burnt orange would be my NFL sacred number. All the other numbers are meaningless to me.

      • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 10:53 am |

        Yeah, I would say 34 is a huge number. Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Thurman Thomas…there are even some players today (Ricky Williams, DeAngelo Williams) who wear 34.

        28 still has some big players on it, too.

        • Jerry | March 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm |

          “12” was named the greatest uniform number by the NFL Network, because of the players that have/are wearing it: Bradshaw, Staubach, Namath, Rodgers, Brady

  • D | March 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |

    In lacrosse, #22 is the marquee number. Similar to #10 in soccer, #22 is the playmaker. Gary Gait and every Powell brother wore #22 at Syracuse.

  • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |

    Is there a definitive number for each sport? My answer is “no”. Numbers are too position oriented in football. NHL #99 is all Gretzky but that’s for the Great One & no one else. NBA 23 is their great one, but great players existed before & after him. MLB has no definitive number, as much as it tries in retrospect.

    Personally I don’t like the idea of mandating specific ultimatum numbers for sports; each player should make up his own legend; not based on expectations of being “the Next One” of kin.

  • Anthony Verna | March 10, 2012 at 8:24 am |

    And, yet, when I think of Dr. J. . .

    And I get steamed it’s what LeBron James is wearing.

    • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 8:43 am |

      good point — i well remember one of my seminal ‘uni watching’ moments as a young-un was when the good doctor left the nets (as #32) and went to the sixers (and #6)…i couldn’t believe he didn’t get #32 (at the tender age of 10, i thought players “owned” their numbers) — and he wore 32 in college and with the squires (nice timeline of unis here

      so, while there will be many who remember julius as #32, there are probably as many or more who remember him in #6

    • Jeremiah | March 10, 2012 at 10:33 am |

      I think of 6 when I see Dr. J as well. To me 32 is Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Always will be.

    • Matt Beahan | March 10, 2012 at 10:55 am |

      Yeah, Doc will always be #6 to me. In fact, with Bill Russell also wearing #6, you could argue that it’s THE basketball number.

      Other than Jordan, how many great (or even above-average) players have worn #23? Calvin Murphy’s probably the next best player, and Norm Van Lier and Alex English wore #23 for a season, but aren’t really associated with the number.

      • Matt Beahan | March 10, 2012 at 10:59 am |

        In fact, looking at the numbers of various HoFers:

        3 players who wore #23 for at least a season are in the HoF.

        #6 & #33 each have 6 players in the HoF.

        #32 has 7 players in the HoF.

        #10 is the clear winner, with 9 players in the HoF, although many more players wore this number.

        In short, I have absolutely no idea. I don’t know if you can narrow any sport down to a single number…

  • teenchy | March 10, 2012 at 8:37 am |

    But usually, we think of the great football players at the positions of quarterback, running back or wide receiver. You could’ve covered those for the same team with one player.

  • MB Whitehead | March 10, 2012 at 8:42 am |

    For hockey it’s #9. Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull,Maurice Richard. It’s no coincidence Gretzky chose #99. Lately bit of #19 as well.

    • StLMarty | March 10, 2012 at 8:46 am |

      And the White Album.

    • Oakville Endive/Celery Root | March 10, 2012 at 8:55 am |

      I think if you grew up in the 60’s or early 70’s, “9” seemed like a magical number in hockey. A team that didn’t have a good player wearing “9”, didn’t seem like a very good team.

      I would say that’s gone in the last 25 years. In hockey it’s to certain extent , it’s any high number “66”, “99”, “88” and “91” etc. Although all trends, are just that trends, and a new one appears emerging, and that is “4” is re-emerging.

    • Tom G | March 10, 2012 at 9:26 am |

      The 9’s run as the hockey go-to number pretty much ended with the first expansion. Also, don’t forget Johnny Bucyk for the Bruins.

    • Teebz | March 10, 2012 at 11:57 am |

      9, which spawned 99’s choice of number, also forced another great into choosing his 66.

      9 has had a significant history of influence on hockey.

      • timmy b | March 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm |

        9 is also the numb er of my baseball hero as a kid, Bill Mazeroski.

  • Jimbo | March 10, 2012 at 8:50 am |

    For hockey, the first number to begin the conversation has to be 9. Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull all wore 9. Gretzky wore 99 as an homage to Howe.
    However, if you are a goalie, like me, the number you wanted was 1. 1 traditionally signified the team’s best goalkeeper. The back up usually got 30.
    Tony Esposito (35) and Ken Dryden (29) and Patrick Roy (33) showed that you didn’t have to wear #1 to be #1, but I still think of #1 as THE number for a goaltender.

  • scott | March 10, 2012 at 8:52 am |

    There’s no definitive number for baseball, though several are very important. Didn’t Reggie Jackson and others choose to wear 44 as a tribute to Aaron? Several players over the years have donned 21 in remembrance of Clemente. 7 seems to have grown in popularity because of Mantle’s legend. Growing up in New England in the late 70s/ early 80s, a lot of Little Leaguers wanted 14, so they could be Jim Rice (though I associated it more with Peter Rose).

  • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 9:29 am |

    Mary Anne.
    Definitely Mary Anne.

    • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |

      Janet, Chrissy, Cindy or Terri?
      Definitely Janet.

      • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |

        We’re making ourselves look old.
        Everybody knows the REAL question is…
        Rachel or Monica?

        • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |

          That show sucks ass, Ricko! “Friends” makes me vomit.

        • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 10:06 am |


      • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

        “Janet, Chrissy, Cindy or Terri?”


        which one was kate jackson and which one was jacklyn smith?

    • Juke Early | March 10, 2012 at 10:08 am |

      Hey! this is a sports blog ;-) Keira[nee Kiera] or Parminder?

      • JTH | March 10, 2012 at 10:16 am |

        I think you mean Jules or Jess.

        • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |

          or Jennie?

        • JTH | March 11, 2012 at 12:32 am |

          Or Cat?

    • Mike 2 | March 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

      Definitely Bailey, not Jennifer

      • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |


      • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

        Oooo…forgot about Bailey.

  • M.Princip | March 10, 2012 at 9:34 am |

    Nice job with that horned frog Allen! Could be perdy slick, LSU style, with the letters.

  • Adam R. W. | March 10, 2012 at 9:39 am |

    After last weekend’s race, you could argue that the quintessential NASCAR number is 11. Cars with #11 have won 198 races, tied with #43 on the all time list. But unlike the 43, which had the vast majority of its wins with Richard Petty, the #11 has won races with drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Bill Elliott, Parnelli Jones, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, and Mario Andretti among others.

    • Arr Scott | March 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

      Raises a question I don’t know the answer to: how are numbers assigned in NASCAR?

  • Canflam | March 10, 2012 at 9:46 am |

    The most important number for each sport belongs to the greatest player to EVAR play said sport.

    Therefore in football it’s 32 for Jim Brown.
    In soccer, 10 for Pele.
    In basketball, 23 for Michael Jordan.
    In baseball, who gives a fuck, with all of those bigots, drug cheats. FUCK ALL OF THEM. THEY ARE ALL SCUM.
    In hockey, 9 for Gordie Howe.

    End of discussion.

    • concealed78 | March 10, 2012 at 10:10 am |

      Sounds like someone can’t throw.

    • rpm | March 10, 2012 at 10:11 am |

      how do you really feel canflam?

      • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 10:22 am |

        Well, for one thing, evidently he likes only sports with a round inflatable ball.

    • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 10:20 am |

      …greatest player to EVAR play said sport. Therefore in football it’s 32…

      You typed a 32 when you obviously meant to type an 80.

      • Jim Vilk | March 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm |

        He meant to type 32 for basketball.
        (Magic > Michael)

        • JTH | March 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |

          HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

          Oh, wait. You’re serious.


          Earvin was pretty fucking good. I’ll give you that.

        • Jim Vilk | March 11, 2012 at 12:26 am |

          It’s a close one, fer sure, but I pick Magic because he could play any position.

        • Phil Hecken | March 11, 2012 at 12:42 am |

          well, that and he was better

    • Jeremiah | March 10, 2012 at 10:36 am |

      Of course there are no bigots or drug cheats in sports other than baseball.

  • M.Princip | March 10, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    Any sport, if you wore #00, you were the prototype…. part man part machine supreme.

  • rpm | March 10, 2012 at 10:09 am |

    hockey is 9, and that’s that.

  • John Q | March 10, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    Sacred Baseball Numbers:


    Joe D.
    B. Robinson
    G. Brett
    L. Boudreau
    H. Greenberg
    J. Bench
    J. Bagwell
    A. Pujols
    D. Wright

    Football #12:


    Hockey #9:


    Basketball #33:


    • HHH | March 10, 2012 at 11:43 am |

      Um, for football #12, I think some New England fans would be pretty upset with you for forgetting a certain QB who only won, what was it, THREE Super Bowls, and also had an undefeated regular season, and also only holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a season.

      Other than that he’s not even worth mentioning.

      • Shane | March 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

        Frig, yeah, um, what’s his name. Tim Bradley!

      • John Q | March 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

        Wow, how did I miss Tom Brady??? Good catch HHH.

        I probably missed a couple more.

        Most of those are retired numbers except for Nomar, and D. Wright in baseball.

        In football the Cowboys and the Raiders don’t retire numbers which I never knew and I guess the Steelers don’t retire numbers as well.

        If the Cowboys don’t retire numbers does that mean that no one has worn #12 or #33 since Staubach and Dorsett retired? And if nobody wore those numbers then what’s the point of not retiring them??

        #10 is big in basketball as well and it’s been retired eight times:


        #32 has been retired 8 times:


        #4 in baseball is and it’s been retired 8 times:


        #14 for some reason has been retired a lot:

        Hodges (by the Mets not the Dodgers)

        Pete Rose’s #14 isn’t retired by the Reds??

        #8 is a popular retired baseball number:


        It wouldn’t seem likely but #20 has been retired nine times:

        L. Gonzalez
        F. Robinson (Orioles)
        F. Robinson (Reds)
        Sutton (The Dodgers retired Sutton’s #20 but not Gil Hodges’ #14 ??????)
        F. White

        You Wouldn’t think it right away but #7 has only been retired twice, Mantle and Biggio and before Biggio in 2008 it was only retired once.

        #15 has only been retired once that being Thurman Munson and #17 has only been retired once that being for Dizzy Dean.

        • John Q | March 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm |

          Forgot to list #20 Lou Brock

        • David Gratt | March 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

          The Dodgers only retire numbers of players in the Hall of Fame. Or at least that’s what they used to do…

          So that’s why Gil Hodges’ number isn’t retired.

        • BurghFan | March 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

          The Steelers retired Ernie Stautner’s #70 in the Sixties. When the ’70s guys started retiring, they decided not to officially retire any more numbers, but after Todd Seabaugh played poorly wearing Jack Ham’s 59, there are several numbers they don’t hand out: 12, 32, 52, 58, 59, 75 all come to mind. (And I don’t think there’s been a 36 or 63 after Bettis and Dawson.)

  • interlockingtc | March 10, 2012 at 10:26 am |

    Before Abdul-Jabbar and Bird’s 33, before Magic and Dr. J’s 32, before Jordan’s 23, there was one memorably iconic number in professional basketball….

    …and before that, it could be Russell’s 6.

  • Brinke | March 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |

    I wore 6 my senior season in HS soccer====Franz Beckenbauer aka Der Kaiser.

  • Paul | March 10, 2012 at 10:35 am |

    The number for hockey is 9. It was worn by Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard as well as players like Bobby Hull, Andy Bthgate, Ted Kennedy, and John Bucyk. Recently its been worn by Glenn Anderson, Lanny McDonald, Clarke Gillies and Mike Modano. All Hall of Famers (or soon to be in Modano’s case) On top of that, you have Wayne Gretzky who took 99 in homage to Howe (and Gretzky always wore 9 when possible growing up) and Mario Lemieux, who took 66 which was in tribute to Gretzky.

    A close second would have to be 19, its sort of a modern day #9, with players like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic making it famous. It was also worn by Larry Robinson, Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring and Paul Henderson. Joe Thornton and Brad Richards also wear the number. Sergei Federov chose 91 with Detroit in part because of his respect for Yzerman as well.

    • Topher | March 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm |

      The hockey numbers are interesting, because what today’s sacred numbers are stems from yesterday’s sacred numbers. The number for forwards is 9. With 9 being retired in so many teams, players turned to 19 as a substitute. Gretzky took the unorthodox route of doubling up at 99. I’m not sure where this route will take us since 99 is retired league-wide and 19s have started to be retired. 29 and 39 are contenders, but both have been associated with goaltending. In Detroit, Justin Abdelkader wears 18 (1+8=9) in deference to Howe & Yzerman.

      Top defensemen seem to prefer 7. Phil Esposito, Paul Coffey, and Keith Tkachuk have all worn this number. An alternative, at least in Hocketown, is 5 which has been worn by the likes of Marcel Dionne and more recently Nicklas Lidstrom.

      Goalies have their own set of sacred numbers. 1 is the prototypical sacred number for goalies, being worn by the top goalie (or the only goalie) for a team for ages. This changed when 1 started being retired for the likes of Sawchuck and Plante. Alternatives become numbers in the thirties. 30 is currently being worn by Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist. 33 has been retired in two cities for Patrick Roy. 35 has been worn by Giguere and now Jimmy Howard in Detroit (30 was worn by Osgood when Howard came up).

  • Eric | March 10, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    Having read Douglas Adams in my youth, I would have thought that the clear answer about the most important number in life, not just sports, would have been 42.

  • Lou | March 10, 2012 at 10:56 am |

    For baseball, number 44 represented the “slugger”, as mentioned above, starting as a tribute to Hank Aaron. Reggie, McCovey, and later Eric Davis and then Stawberry when he went to the Dodgers. The number evoked power. Shame that Jason Bay is ruining that!

    For pitchers, although I am a huge Seaver fan, I think of number 32 as the quintessential ace number. Koufax and Carlton being the premier examples.

  • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    I just compiled a bunch of notiable players wearing uniform numbers on my site here. It’s not complete, but I can say right now (and I think everyone here can), that #12 is probably the most sacred number as a quarterback, since I have seven teams at least retiring those numbers (not including Seattle), and five players going to the HOF.

    Any help getting more info on football numbers would be greatly appreciated. This is gonna be an ongoing thing.

    • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |

      Until the unfortunate run of Jim Kelly and the Bills, I believe no QB wearing #12 had lost a Super Bowl…except to another QB wearing #12.

      • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

        The #12 is a pretty prestigious number for quarterbacks. Even now, if a QB wears #12, you expect him to preform.

        • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm |

          I’m just waiting for it to stop being “cool” for so many NFL wideouts to wear numbers in the teens, and get back to numbers in the 80s. Give the Packers credit for keeping most of theirs in the 80s, btw.

          But, I suppose it’s like pajama pants in baseball. Ain’t gonna change for a while, if ever.

        • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm |

          I’m just waiting for it to stop being “cool” for so many NFL wideouts to wear numbers in the teens, and get back to numbers in the 80s.

          Or they could start wearing them in the 20’s again…

          I kinda wish the NFL would just drop the positional number rules entirely. The only purpose they’ve ever really served is for eligible receivers on offense, and even then it’s still overly strict for no reason. Offensive linemen are ineligible. So that’s 50-79 if we want to stay semi-traditional. Beyond that, it shouldn’t matter.

        • Ricko | March 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

          Well, yeah (about 20s…or 30s or 40s, for that matter), cuz technically one of them is a “halfback” a lot of the time.

        • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

          I’m usually fine with a wide receiver as long as it isn’t all of them, like the Eagles. It bugs the hell out of me.

  • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    Oh boy, a sneak peak to the NFL Draft Caps (its a Facebook page, so you have to like it before you can see it). If you can’t see them, well, you aren’t missing much. They have a monochromed logo to match the hat underneath the city name. They’re keeping the Seahawks and Panthers hidden, so I’m gonna take a guess that there is going to be some sort of uni-change (and since we know the Panthers logo has been “updated”). Also, no Cowboys hat yet for some reason.

    What a waste of a Facebook like.

    • The Jeff | March 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

      I don’t “like” random crap pages, so someone else needs to take a few screencaps for us to look at.

      • Kyle Allebach | March 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

        Here’s the splash they have. All monochrome logos. Notable ones I took were the Bears which uses the Bear logo, not the C, Cincy uses the tiger logo, not the striped B, I can’t even tell that Oakland has a logo, Cleveland has a brown helmet (to match the hat), and Tampa Bay is an ugly poop/Pewter color.

  • Joseph Young | March 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

    I am 24 years old and from Baltimore Md. I grew up during the Cal Ripken era here in Baltimore. And I remember hearing about it on the news, and actually in my little league that no one could wear number 8 because too many kids wanted it, and fight over it. So in sense they retired it from little leagues. Now i have no idea if it is still that way now. I doubt it sense kids in little league were not even born when he played.

    • duker | March 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

      I got number 8 when I was in little league near Baltimore during the Ripken era. Our team was the “Giants” and the uniforms were blue, but I was so psyched to get number 8.

  • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

    if anyone is so inclined…marlins vs. cards on MLB network…marlins wearing their new black caps (look to be standard issue, not 3930s)…but horrid BP clown tops (black)

    cards, of course, in traditional road (all gray) unis but with traditional ST red caps instead of regular season blue

    the cards look SO MUCH BETTER with red caps both home and away

    • Arr Scott | March 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

      Amen, brother.

    • scott | March 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm |

      Nope, I like the navy caps on the road for the Cardinals.

      • JTH | March 11, 2012 at 12:18 am |


        • Phil Hecken | March 11, 2012 at 12:26 am |

          hammer at the ready

  • Gusto44 | March 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

    Little off topic here, would like to know if anyone recalls a certain uniform combination worn by the 1975-77 Cleveland Indians. I remember once the Tribe wore red pants with a white jersey, but did the Indians ever wear the blue jersey with the red pants? During this time frame, Cleveland had red and blue jerseys, but only red pants to go with white uniforms. Of course, the Tribe wore solid red a number of times, always liked the font style on those jerseys.

    • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm |


      was a minor white whale on UW

      still looking for that “all blue” caveman look ricko swears he saw

      i’d normally have a hard time believing him, but he was right about the broncos blue pony and the rangers wearing powder over white, so i’d like to think somewhere (possibly an ASG) the all blue combo was worn

      although rarely, we’ve ascertained the caveman period included these combos, but so far, no proof of anything with blue trou

      • timmy b | March 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

        Gusto44, there is no such thing as “off topic” on the UW, as long as it’s sports uniforms and sports logos. It’s called “UNI watch”, don’cha know. ;o)

        (Speaking for myself, of course)

        • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |

          thank you mr. brulia

          now, can we please return to uniform numbers?

      • Gusto44 | March 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

        We need a diehard Indians fan to compile a “Tribe Tracker” uniform log for those 1975-77 Indians, just like the BucTracker done by Jerry a while back.

        • Jim Vilk | March 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |

          Any diehard Tribe fan who rooted for them during the 70s died…hard.

  • pushbutton | March 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    Nobody who wore #47 in baseball ever did anything worth remembering. And they all died friendless and alone.

    • Brinke | March 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

      Tommy Hume would disagree

      • Jim Vilk | March 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm |

        Ah, Tom Hume…famous for serving up Willie Stargell’s 475th and final home run.

  • Chris | March 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Personally, the numbers for sports resonate from my childhood. Baseball is 41 because Tom Seaver was my favorite player. Football is 12 because of all the great QBs with that number in that timeframe: Staubach, Namath, Stabler, Griese, even Joe Ferguson was a decent QB back then. Basketball would be 32, then 6 for Dr. J.

    Overall, I’d pick 23 for basketball; 51 for football–the linebacker position defines the sport for me and Butkis’s 51 seems slightly more iconic than Taylor’s 56. It should be a higher number with a guy who is bloodied from time to time. For baseball, I’d go with 44, I guess.

    • HHH | March 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

      “Football is 12 because of all the great QBs with that number in that timeframe: Staubach, Namath, Stabler, Griese, even Joe Ferguson was a decent QB back then.”

      Don’t forget Terry Bradshaw. He wore number 12 and won the most Super Bowls out of all those other number 12 quarterbacks you mentioned.

      • Chris | March 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

        I knew I was forgetting someone.

  • Charles Eldridge | March 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

    In Hockey it is #9. This isn’t even a debate.

    The list of Hall of Famers in #9 is long. Gretzky wore it as a youth and only switched to #99 when #9 wasn’t available.

    As a Anaheim Ducks fan, #9 is given a place of prominence by the team. It was worn by the first star Duck Paul Kariya for nine years. When the young, hot shot Bobby Ryan made the team, the management told him he had to earn #9. He wore #54 (5+4=9 get it?) until his skills proved that he could wear #9 which he now proudly does.

  • Wheels | March 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

    #44 is reserved for the true greats.

    Jerry West, Pistol Pete Maravich, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brown and Ernie Davis (in college)… John “The Diesel” Riggins

  • Keith S. | March 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |

    As has been mentioned, I think football would have to be broken down by position. Here are the numbers I considered revered:

    QB – 12
    RB – 34
    WR – 88

    I was in college when Jordan first came on the scene, so #23 has always been big for basketball.

  • Tim E. O'B | March 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

    Baylor’s women’s bball team is a nike team wearing those dumbass ‘platinum’ unis. The adidas/nike war is on and the battle ground appears to be Baylor basketball.

    Team Nike vs Team Adidas splitting up one university, disgusting.

  • trevor | March 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm |

    A fun book to read is “Best By Number,” written by The Sporting News. It decides which athlete is the best at their number. I don’t agree with all the decisions, but it’s interesting to compare vastly different people and eras.

    In NASCAR, 3 is easily the most popular and cherished number due to Dale Earnhardt’s death. I was thinking the other day how if Earnhardt hadn’t died, the number would be more like 43, Richard Petty’s old number. Since Petty’s retirement, the 43 has had a carousel of drivers which has resulted in the number losing some of its luster.

    In the NBA, it’s interesting how Jordan’s 23 influenced Lebron’s decision to have the same number when he was drafted and Kobe to choose 24 a couple years ago.

  • Cort | March 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

    Absolutely the best part of the Carolina/KC tweaks is that the designer took the time to place a swoosh on the Chiefs jersey. It’s a shaky swoosh, drawn in a tremulous hand. And it is the first time anything Nike has ever made me smile.

  • Chris | March 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    Adidas is doing a miserable job trying to pretend to be Nike. Baylor’s new uniforms are hideous. And since when do Bears have tiger stripes?

    • Phil Hecken | March 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

      oh, c’mon…jim vilk thinks this is THE shit (and prolly so does THE)

      • Jim Vilk | March 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

        Lose the Zubaz-ishness and I’d wear that.

        • Phil Hecken | March 11, 2012 at 12:40 am |

          it’s not zubaz…it’s tiger stripe…for the bears

  • phhill | March 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    I agree with Wheels, I think #44 is a very important number – especially in basketball. In fact, I grew up wearing #44 because I thought some of the best players sported it. Pistol Pete, Jerry West, George Gervin, David Thompson (in NCAA and for a brief period in the NBA), and I’m sure there are others. But that’s a pretty good list so far

    • Jim Vilk | March 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm |

      Dan Issel.

    • Mike Engle | March 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |

      Brian Scalabrine, Keith van Horn, and Austin Croshere.
      All kidding aside, Houston’s Elvin “E” Hayes.

  • Billy | March 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |

    In baseball sometimes it depends on the country where the player comes from. A lot of Venezuelan players, especially Venezuelan shortstops (like Vizquel) wear #13 after Dave Concepcion.

    In Japan, the ace of the staff is often assigned #18, and some wear it when they arrive to play in the MLB, like Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Matsuzaka

    Also, pitchers in MLB almost always wear a 2 digit number

    • Mike Engle | March 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

      Yes, Japan is very numerological. In Japanese (and Asian) society, the 4 digit is extremely unlucky because it is a voice inflection away from saying “death” instead of “four.” So in the Japanese leagues, #44 is generally reserved for an imported player of non-Asian origin. Also, #42 tends to be a popular number for MLB cast-offs in Japan, because #42 is a retired number unavailable in the MLB (and undesired because of a 4 digit).