The hottest selling jersey in Cleveland right now is a Cavs #33. Shaq hasn’t worn the jersey for much more than a photo shoot, but already may be the best #33 in Cavalier history. I started thinking about Cleveland jersey numbers and wondered what the greatest number was in Cleveland sports? It would have to be a number that reaches across the three major sports in my mind to be the top. So I did a little digging and decided to give you the top 5. You’ll get one a day this week. Today we start with the fifth best number in Cleveland sports- #21.
There are better individual players out there, but few jersey numbers might actually represent Cleveland sports history quite like the #21. It all starts with the Indians’ Hall of Famer from years gone by- Bob Lemon.
Look at Lemon’s stats. If he hadn’t played with Bob Feller, he might be remembered as the best pitcher in team history. Lemon won 2 games for the Indians in the 1948 World Series. The last time the Indians won the series in case you had forgotten. 7 times he won 20+ games. In that championship season, he had 10 shutouts. Teams don’t have that many shutouts now. Lemon would certainly be enough, but there are more Indians that made #21 ours. How about the Human Rain Delay himself Mike Hargrove? He wore it as a player and manager. He may not have had a HOF career as a player, but he did help guide the Tribe to their glory days of the ’90s. You also have Greg Swindell and Rocky Colavito, both #21 for the Indians.
From the Browns- Eric Metcalf. There are a few Browns vs Steelers games more memorable than the 1993 tilt known simply as “The Metcalf Game”. The Browns were outplayed, and yet beat the Steelers on the strength of 2 Metcalf punt returns. The first one covered 91 yards, and the second went for 75. Both were touchdowns. The Browns won 28-23. When you remember Eric Metcalf, do remember that it was not his idea to run the ball up the middle on third and long. That was Belichick’s.
From the Cavaliers you get an all time great name- World B. Free. Free averaged over 22 points a game for the Cavs, and was the only reason to watch the team during a terrible stretch in which they were the laughingstock of the league. Gerald Wilkins wore #21 for the Cavs, and was brought in to be the defensive specialist the Cavs needed to get past Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Perhaps if Wilkins was able to accomplish that feat he could have bumped #21 closer to the top of the list.
So there you have it- the fifth best uniform number in Cleveland sports history #21.
Honorable Mentions: These numbers just missed the top 5-
#24 Manny Ramirez/Grady Sizemore and Andre Miller.
#13 Omar Vizquel, Frank Ryan and Delonte West.
#14 Otto Graham and Larry Doby.
#25 Mark Price, Charles White and Jim Thome.