April 18, 2014

Cleveland Sports: By The Numbers- #19

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.

bob-feller-web-copy

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.

kosar1From 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.

bradykosarBernie 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.

  • DK

    I would like to preface this with the fact that I LOVE Rapid Robert….

    Bob Fellers “107 mph pitch” allegedly recorded at an airforce base was corrected and recalculated to be 98 mph, due to the primitive nature of the radar gun (which was just being developed at that time). accurate speed readings on radar guns (for the sake of “records”) weren’t developed enough to be reliable until the early 1990′s, so any pitch speeds recorded before then should not be trusted as accurate.

  • MrCleaveland

    Rick,

    First off, I really enjoyed this feature. Sports rankings and lists always make for interesting discussion/argument. Maybe someday you can rank the top five numbers for individual teams and we can all kick that around too.

    Second, every time you announced a new number this week, I kept figuring that 34 had to be next. But it didn’t even make honorable mention. (Don’t ask me why I care. I have no idea.)

    Anyway, submitted for your consideration is this honor roll of Lake Erie legends who gallantly sported, as a certain head-case downstate might say, the Tres-Quatro:

    Austin Carr
    Joe Charboneau
    Greg Pruitt (member of the Browns Legends club)
    Kevin Mack (Legends club)
    Walt Michaels (Legends club, five-time Pro Bowl LB in the ‘50s)
    Dale Mitchell (.312 lifetime BA in 11 years with the Tribe)
    Ruben Droughns (he did rush for a thou with the new Browns, which is saying something)
    Jim Kern (he made two all-star teams for us and is certainly in Mike Jackson/Dave Justice territory)

    And, since you flung the door wide open by counting C.C. as a 42, I nosed around the Baseball Almanac yesterday and found three others who wore No. 34:

    Lou Boudreau (wore 34 in his only game in 1938)
    Sam McDowell (1963 season)
    Cliff Lee (2003 and ’04)

    I grant you, there’s only one HOFer here, and he wore it for only one game, and I have no problem with No. 19 being first, but gentlemen of the jury, I humbly submit to you . . . the No. 34.

  • CLESportsFan

    Hey Rick,

    I agree about #19 being #1… I don’t think Bob Feller get’s the national media attention he should… he seems to get overlooked a lot so I enjoy reading the local stories that gives him the props he is due !

    (Let’s honor the legends while they are living !)

    I really enjoyed this series… I’m sure it was hard to whittle down and rank the numbers… I think you did a great job and it was a unique series of articles to read ! It was a nice diversion from the other depressing news that keeps coming out of the Tribe camp ! LOL!

  • http://www.60bpm.com Robbie

    To be completely honest, I haven’t agreed with the order of the previous ones, but you NAILED this one! I figured it had to be #19 because of Bernie, but I didn’t realize Feller was #19 as well. I think it would be hard to argue the placement of this one. Two guys who wanted to play in Cleveland, though… I suppose the Cleveland of the 1930s through 1950s wasn’t the butt of many jokes back then.

    Man, can you imagine what Feller’s stats would show if he’d been able to pitch through his prime years during WWII?!?

    The stat that amazes me the most for Feller are his walks. He walked A LOT of people. Does this imply he didn’t have great control? If so, that would have to make a batters a bit nervous when you think of the velocity!

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com Cleveland Frowns

    Agreed re: great series, and #19.

    But, while I have all kinds of respect for Feller’s accomplishments, both on and off the field (the military service really gets me . . . can you imagine A-Rod going to Iraq for a few years?), I respectfully submit that one reason Feller doesn’t get the props that he should is his judgmental and somewhat childish treatment of Pete Rose vis a vis the Hall of Fame. As much as I love the guy, thinking about the back and forth between those guys always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • http://cleveland.com zeppelin1

    32

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