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 second part of the week long series…
I appreciate the comments from yesterday’s selection. In case you missed it, I awarded 5th place on the list to the number 21, and gave away some honorable mentions. Before we get to today’s number I want to address a couple things. First, being a former football player I completely agree that at least half the numbers used have no shot of making the list. Not many baseball/basketball players reach past 50 for their jersey choice. Also, being a lineman I think it stinks that the glory position players get recognized again. What can you do? Also, I was surprised to see the number of people clamoring for #25 to be included in the top 5. While several thought #25 should be included, nobody said it should be ahead of #21. Makes me feel better about the selections. The toughest omission in my book was #14. Moving on to today’s number- #42.
Just like yesterday, our list starts with a Hall of Fame player. This time, the HOF player is from the Browns. #42 Paul Warfield. Here’s a synopsis of Warfield from the Browns official site- “Warfield was fast and super-smooth and was known as a precise pattern runner. He also had exceptional hands and was an excellent blocker. In his career, Warfield caught 427 passes for 8,565 yards, including 85 touchdowns. He had a sensational 20.1-yard per catch average. Warfield was named All-NFL five times and was named to eight Pro Bowls.” My dad often called this former Buckeye the best downfield blocker he ever saw. He contributed to the Dolphins perfect season of 1972 after being traded away from Cleveland.
One of the few numbers retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers is that of Nate Thurmond. LeBron may be the King of Akron basketball now, but Thurmond was the original rubber city hoops hero. Nate came to the Cavs at the end of his career. He was part of the “Miracle at Richfield” team that brought down the Washington Bullets. Thurmond is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
For the Indians I offer two selections. The first is relief pitcher Mike Jackson. Before you call me crazy, realize that in his 3 seasons with the Tribe Jackson saved 94 games with an era under 3.00. That’s good enough for 4th all time on the Indians career save list. Jackson did his job in the ’97 World Series. He held the Marlins scoreless in his inning of game seven.
The second Indian is a bit of a reach, but stay with me. Major League Baseball decided to retire Jackie Robinson’s #42, and the Indians followed suite. On the anniversary of his breaking the color barrier, several players have opted to wear the number in tribute. One player that used that took advantage of that opportunity every time he could was former pitcher CC Sabathia. Sabathia had this to say about wearing #42- “It meant a lot [to wear the number], I’m just excited I got a chance to pitch. To be able to pitch and play on this day was huge.” It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’m including Sabathia to push #42 over the top. Warfield, Thurmond and Sabathia/Jackson make the list.