If you were to poll the general population as to which jersey number a person wore as a kid over the last few decades – it’s likely that Michael Jordan’s number 23 would be at the top of the list. For example, not many people will openly ask who the greatest baseball players to wear No. 5 are.
However, the most underrated jersey number in sports just might be No. 5 – specifically in the baseball world, where there were a slew of big-time players that donned this crooked number on his jersey. That includes arguably the best of today and yesterday.
In particular, here are my top ten greatest baseball players to wear No. 5:
The Top 10 Greatest Baseball Players to Wear the No. 5
10. Nomar Garciaparra
Certainly, Nomar had his critics – who pointed (and speculated) regarding the latter half of his career, which was marred by injuries – to the point that he borderline was instead known as Mia Hamm’s husband. He was also often criticized for not being clutch in the playoffs.
However, if you look closer at his career, Garciaparra was a career .313 hitter – including batting .357 in 1999 and .372 in 2000. On top of that, he was a solid defensive player that also hit 229 HR. And oh yeah, in 112 postseason AB’s, he batted .321 – not too shabby.
9. Lou Boudreau
The Hall of Fame shortstop played the majority of his 15-year career with the Cleveland Indians. During this time, Boudreau had 45+ doubles over four different seasons, was a career .295 hitter and had an impressive career on-base percentage of .380.
8. Jeff Bagwell
As a member of “The Killer B’s” in Houston throughout his entire career, Bagwell was a staple in baseball for a decade and a half. During that time, many likely didn’t realize just how good he was, not just belting 449 career HR and having a career average of .297, but also playing consistent gold glove defense at first base.
7. Luke Appling
Appling may not be a household name in baseball history, but he put together a significant career while playing for the Chicago White Sox from 1930 to 1950. The Hall of Fame infielder pieced together a .310 career average, highlighted by his peak season in 1936, when he hit .388 and – as crazy as it sounds, had 6 HR and 128 RBI.
His career on-base percentage was just a hair below .400 (at .399).
6. Brooks Robinson
He was referred to as “The Vacuum Cleaner” for a reason, sucking up more ground balls and gold gloves than one could count on their fingers.
While he may have not had the gaudiest numbers on offense (a career .267 hitter over 23 seasons – all with the Orioles), Robinson made up for it on defense, in leadership and class, plus by adding some pop with his bat, too – in the form of 268 career home runs.
All in all, it was a stellar Hall of Fame career for the former Baltimore third baseman.
5. George Brett
Most remember Brett for his famous pine tar incident, but the fiery Hall of Fame corner infielder – who played all 21 seasons with the Kansas City Royals – was quite the offensive machine as well.
When it was all said and done, George Brett finished his career with an average of .305, while adding in 315 HR. He also threatened the .400 mark in 1980 – but finished batting .390.
In 166 postseason AB’s with the Royals, he batted .337.
4. Hank Greenberg
He was called “Hammerin’ Hank” for a reason – and it wasn’t his supreme ability to do carpentry work.
Many don’t realize just how good Greenberg’s career was, specifically in 1938, when he hit 58 HR – one of highest totals in history.
Over his career (13 seasons, 12 with the Tigers), Greenberg hit 331 HR and had a .313 career average. He also posted a ridiculous tally of 183 RBI in 1937 and 170 RBI in 1935.
3. Albert Pujols
It’s quite possible that by the end of his career, Pujols could be at the top of the list. Entering his tenth season in St. Louis, Pujols has never hit any less than 32 HR in one season (and has 374 HR to date).
Pujols also has never batted under .300 in a season, has multiple MVP awards and one gold glove award.
If Phat Albert can remain healthy, he could play for another decade, likely leading to a number of shattered baseball records and a Hall of Fame induction.
2. Johnny Bench
Bench is easily one of best catchers of all time – not just hitting for power (389 career HR, including 40+ two separate seasons), but also adding in great gold glove defense behind the plate, too.
In his 17 seasons – all with the Cincinnati Reds – Bench also added in multiple MVP awards, the rookie of the year honor, and a World Series MVP award, too.
1. Joe DiMaggio
Personally, when ranking these players, I don’t care how many home runs Pujols will hit by the end of his career and I don’t care how many amazing plays Brooks made for the O’s. Nothing touches DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, which I consider to be the most unbreakable record in the history of sports.
If that record isn’t enough, DiMaggio – in his 13 seasons with the Yankees – also had a career average of .325, hit 361 HR, and was a 3-time American League MVP and a 9-time World Series champion.
* Also Posted to my B/R page