What is the greatest uniform number in Cleveland sports history? A number significant to more than just one of the three pro franchises? Today the final part of the week long series…
It’s been a fun series. I regret that I rushed to get the list ready to publish on Monday. Looking back, the list might have changed. Despite the outcry for #25 to make the list, I would have included #14 in the top 5. Whether it pushed out #21 or #42 I’m not sure, but Larry Doby and Otto Graham should have carried the day for #14.
In my mind there is however a clear choice for the title of greatest uniform number in Cleveland sports history. It has to be #19. How great has the number been? Well it isn’t about sheer volume. In fact very few people have actually worn the number. But those that have set the bar high.
From the Indians- #19 Bob Feller. LeBron James is the greatest Cavalier, and he carried his number on the list. Jim Brown is the greatest Cleveland Brown, and he carried his number to the list. Rapid Robert is arguably the greatest Indian ever, and it seems only fitting that he find his way on the list. (He had a little more help though.) Feller’s number 19 was retired by the Indians in 1957. He played 21 years for the Tribe, winning 266 games. Had it not been for his military service, Feller would certainly have been a 300 game winner.
He threw 3 no-hitters, the most memorable coming on opening day in 1940, which still stands as the only no-hitter thrown on an opening day. He made 8 all star teams. But what might be most impressive is just how hard he threw. Feller owns the record for fastest recorded pitch in a game. He threw a pitch 107.9 mph. How he pitched for 21 years throwing with that kind of velocity is amazing.
From the Browns- #19 Bernie Kosar. Bernie may not have been the most talented or physically gifted QB to play the game, but what he lacked in agility or athletic ability he made up for in intelligence, desire and passion for the game. The city’s love affair with Bernie began when he chose the Browns. He graduated early from the University of Miami in order to enter the supplemental draft so that the Browns would select him. He wanted to be a Brown. That was just fine by us. Bernie stepped in and led the Browns of the ’80s to 5 straight playoff appearances and of course devastating heartbreak. But those heartbreaks were never Bernie’s fault.
Bernie ranks third in team history in passing yards, fourth in TD passes, and has a career QB rating of 81.6. Numbers will never define how popular Berine was, or what he means to Browns fans who were growing up at the time. Current Browns’ QB Brady Quinn grew up like many other boys in Northern Ohio pretending to be Bernie wearing the #19 Hutch uniform.
From the Cavaliers- #19 Lenny Wilkens. Only two players have ever worn #19 for the Cavaliers. Sorry Damon Jones, but you lose this battle. Wilkens played 2 seasons with the Cavs and averaged 18.5 points. He made the 1973 All-Star game as a Cavalier. But he helps elevate #19 to the top by what he did as a coach. Sure, he wasn’t wearing the number at the time, but it is the same man. Wilkens coached the Cavaliers from 1986 through the 1992/93 season. He made 5 trips to the playoffs in that span, including the team’s first ever trip to the conference finals. Michael Jordan ended Wilkens’ run in Cleveland.
So there you have it. Your top number in Cleveland sports history- #19.