By the point Derek Jeter retired after the 2014 season, he was in every single place. The traditional, white, pinstriped No. 2 Yankees jersey he made well-known was the best-selling jersey in all of MLB.
One distinguished baseball merchandiser informed ESPN that Jeter’s shirt was the truth is the best-selling MLB jersey of all time. The love of Jeter did not finish when he stopped taking part in, both, as he remained atop most lists of baseball’s most recognizable stars for years after he retired.
All of that hardly scratches the floor in relation to placing the affect of No. 2 into context. Over the course of his unparalleled 20-year profession with the Yankees, Jeter accrued 3,465 hits, 14 All-Star appearances, 5 World Collection titles and legions of followers of all ages. A few of these Captain followers at the moment are excellent MLB gamers themselves.
Utilizing knowledge gathered from baseball-reference.com and MLB.com, ESPN evaluated the WAR (wins above substitute) of each MLB participant from 2005 (midway via Jeter’s profession) to 2021 to find out which jersey numbers have been best.
Under ESPN tells the tales of these No. 2s and of the gamers who presently put on the one different 4 numbers to rank within the prime 10 of common and complete WAR and be worn by no less than 100 gamers from 2005 to 2021.
Watch on ESPN and ESPN+: “THE CAPTAIN,” EPISODE 1: Monday, July 18, 10 p.m. ET. Watch the trailer
After just a few flirtations with uniform numbers, the observe of placing them on participant jerseys started in earnest with the 1929 Yankees, and so they have been part of baseball ever since. At first, gamers wore numbers that corresponded with their place within the batting order, which is why Babe Ruth wore No. Three and Lou Gehrig No. 4. The primary No. 2 was additionally a Yankees shortstop — Mark Koenig, a member of the franchise’s famed 1927 membership.
Koenig had nothing to do with Jeter ending up as a No. 2-wearing Yankees’ shortstop seven a long time later, however Jeter has quite a bit to do with the proliferation of high-level No. 2s within the sport since his arrival. Plenty of the sport’s prime infielders have cited Jeter as an affect and a cause why they put on the quantity they put on. There’s even a shortstop who debuted for Boston this season whose mother and father honored Jeter in a extra profound approach. That rookie’s identify is Jeter Downs, and, sure, he’s named after the Captain.
Since Jeter broke into the majors in 1995, gamers sporting No. 2 have collected extra hits than another uniform quantity, adopted by No. 7. Jeter leads the way in which, after all — he’s sixth on the profession hit record, in spite of everything — however 10 different gamers have no less than 1,000 hits sporting No. 2 since Jeter’s call-up. Following Jeter on that record are Randy Winn, Denard Span, Aaron Hill, Troy Tulowitzki and Bogaerts.
The factor is, Jeter did not even need No. 2 at first. His desire was No. 13, the quantity his father, Charles, wore in faculty. The quantity was on the time occupied by Jim Leyritz, so Jeter was assigned No. 2. It was surprisingly accessible on condition that many of the single-digit numbers had been retired for the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. In keeping with Ian O’Connor, creator of “The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter,” it was then-Yankees supervisor Buck Showalter’s concept to offer Jeter No. 2. The subsequent spring, after Showalter had been fired, New York’s tools supervisor tried to offer Jeter No. 17. Jeter wasn’t having it.
The remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.
Baseball gamers are infamously superstitious, however given Jeter’s authentic desire for sporting his father’s No. 13, he seems to be unconcerned about supernatural interference. Loads of others have tempted destiny with No. 13 and achieved simply fantastic, particularly within the greenback column. Jeter’s most notable No. 13-wearing teammate in New York was Alex Rodriguez, who made a lot cash on and off the sphere that he is now a co-owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Manny Machado, an early front-runner on this season’s NL MVP race, is one other well-compensated No. 13 blazing a path to Cooperstown-worthy statistics regardless of carrying the unluckiest of numbers on his again.
Uniform No. 13 remains to be not precisely the variety of selection amongst massive leaguers, nevertheless it’s turn out to be step by step extra acceptable over the a long time. In the course of the 1930s, when the sporting of numbers grew to become embedded as a part of the sport’s cloth, solely 0.4% of participant seasons have been accounted for by gamers sporting No. 13.
After a quick rise within the 1940s, the determine dropped again to 0.4% within the 1950s, maybe as a consequence of Bobby Thomson’s historic pennant-winning homer in 1951 off of No. 13-wearing Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. However the utilization climbed after that, growing every decade to the 2010s, when 1.5% of participant seasons went to bearers of No. 13.
Shortstop seems to be the place of selection for many who wave a dismissive hand at superstition. The 4 all-time leaders in WAR amongst No. 13s all spent no less than one full season as a giant league shortstop: A-Rod, Machado, Omar Vizquel and Dave Concepcion.
Solely three gamers have posted a season of no less than Eight WAR whereas sporting No. 13. The primary was former Purple Sox shortstop John Valentin, who put up 8.Three WAR in 1995, the season of Jeter’s debut. The opposite two have been posted by A-Rod (2005, 2007), who was named AL MVP in each seasons performed subsequent to Jeter. Rodriguez had six different seasons of no less than Eight WAR earlier than he joined the Yankees, however he wore No. Three throughout these campaigns for Seattle and Texas. No. 3, after all, is the area of Ruth within the Bronx.
By way of the Fourth of July, the most well-liked uniform quantity within the main leagues this season was No. 28, with 25 gamers that includes it to date this marketing campaign. That was additionally the most well-liked quantity final season, when 32 gamers wore it, another than the 31 gamers who wore No. 48. This 12 months incorporates a equally fierce battle, with No. 50 this 12 months’s main contender to 28’s recognition crown. By way of July 4, 24 gamers had worn the quantity this season. With a few of this 12 months’s division races already turning into runaways, possibly that is the race we’ll find yourself watching over the second half of the season.
The resurgence of No. 28 wearers is a return to type for the jersey. After being essentially the most worn quantity throughout each the 1990s and 2000s (when it comes to complete participant seasons), it fell to No. 18 throughout the 2010s.
No. 28 may be in vogue now, however the mantle of “hottest quantity” is without end altering fingers. In the course of the 1930s, it was No. 24 that raced out to the lead, although it was extra a query of amount than high quality. In the course of the 1940s, No. 17 took the lead, adopted by No. 15 within the 1950s. Since then it has been No. 23 (1960s) and No. 25 (1970s and ’80s) earlier than the reign of No. 28 started.
Its adorned record incorporates a a number of Cy Younger winner (Kluber) and loads of Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winners, like Arenado, Baez, Donaldson, Martinez and Olson. Jeter did not win any Cy Youngs, although there are most likely some Yankees followers who assume he may have if given the prospect. However he did win 5 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Sluggers.
Jeter was one member of a wave of homegrown stars who shaped the muse of the championship Yankees groups of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was joined by Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, amongst others. Rivera and Jeter are two of solely 54 one-team Corridor of Famers in baseball historical past, having gone into the Corridor in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Today, a few of the AL’s prime younger gamers are additionally homegrown abilities, starring for the workforce that developed them. An uncommon variety of these standouts occur to put on No. 11, a determine that’s seemingly going to be featured on a few of the iconic jerseys of this period.
There’s something to this notion of homegrown expertise, no less than when it comes to profitable on the highest degree. 9 of the previous 11 World Collection champs have featured a homegrown WAR chief. For the Yankees, it has been a digital necessity to function a homegrown participant because the cornerstone on a title workforce.
It did not begin out that approach, as the primary 4 Yankees championships featured Ruth as their WAR chief. That was the aftermath of baseball’s most well-known transaction — the one during which the Purple Sox bought Ruth to their rivals in New York. Nevertheless, the Yankees have gained 23 titles since Ruth retired. All however two of these championship golf equipment have featured a homegrown Yankee atop its WAR leaderboard.
The exceptions have been Purple Ruffing (1938 WAR chief, got here up with the Purple Sox) and Graig Nettles (1977, performed for Minnesota and Cleveland earlier than shifting to the Yankees). Every of the 21 different post-Ruth champions featured a WAR chief who made his MLB debut in a Yankees uniform. Thrice it was Jeter filling that function (1998, 1999 and 2009).
All of this bodes properly for this 12 months’s Yankees, who’re on a report tempo for wins. Their WAR chief is AL MVP candidate Aaron Choose, who was a first-round draft choose by New York in 2013.
As Jeter neared the top of his profession and in the end retired, a brand new era of stars have been making their very own methods to the highest of the MLB pecking order. Whereas it may not be a case of merely doubling up on Jeter’s No. 2, the double-deuce has risen in prominence maybe greater than another for the reason that introduction of Jeter. Whereas numbers within the single digits and youths have historically been the area of hitters, pitchers have dominated uniforms bearing numbers within the 30s and 40s. No. 22 has turn out to be more and more a mixture of each. Ten of the 13 30-homer seasons from No. 22s have come since Jeter debuted, whereas 17 of the 18 200-strikeout seasons have come throughout the Captain’s period.
Whereas a few of the adorned No. 22s of latest classic have made their marks within the postseason, none of them have constructed something near the playoff resume that Jeter compiled over 16 postseasons with the Yankees. That is not an insult to them as a result of Jeter’s playoff report is without doubt one of the extra staggering parts of his Corridor of Fame profession.
Jeter performed a complete further season simply in playoff video games, showing in a report 158 postseason contests, 33 greater than another participant. He is additionally the all-time playoff chief in hits, runs, complete bases and doubles. It wasn’t simply quantity. Jeter compiled a .817 OPS throughout his regular-season profession. At playoff time, in opposition to more durable competitors and when the stakes have been at their highest, that determine was .838.
The 22s cannot match Jeter in October but. Soto has a title below his belt already after hitting three homers for Washington within the 2019 Fall Traditional. Heyward will without end be remembered for the ring he gained with the 2016 Cubs. And Kershaw? Certain, his postseason profession has been filled with ups and downs, however he is the all-time playoff chief in strikeouts.
For causes that go approach past baseball and merchandise gross sales, No. 42 is baseball’s most iconic quantity, the one retired jersey in each MLB ballpark. Jackie Robinson, the person chargeable for that, is fittingly additionally the all-time WAR chief for gamers sporting that quantity, adopted by Corridor of Famer Mariano Rivera. Now that the final of No. 42 bearers is retired, that is one leaderboard that’s by no means going to vary. That is correctly.
The heyday for No. 42 within the years after Robinson retired was the 1970s, when gamers sporting the historic quantity accounted for 166 participant seasons. As was the conference of the day, it was principally a pitcher’s quantity throughout these years, however some non-pitchers wore it, like slugger Greg Luzinski and future supervisor Tony La Russa.
There was additionally a participant who wore No. 42 in six video games for Cleveland in 1974. That participant’s identify was Johnny Jeter. Sadly, there is no such thing as a relation.
No. 24 has seen three greats pile up greater than 100 profession WAR, together with Barry Bonds, fourth all time, fifth-place Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson (19th). Nevertheless, whereas Mays spent practically his complete profession making No. 24 well-known, Bonds switched to No. 25 after he signed with the Giants, and Henderson switched numbers a number of instances throughout his unending profession.
Nonetheless, No. 24 has featured an uncommon frequency of All-Star-level seasons, with 104 seasons of no less than 5 WAR being posted by gamers whereas sporting that quantity. That is second amongst all numbers, surpassed solely by No. 5.
A kind of All-Stars was Ken Griffey Jr., whose No. 24 is retired in any respect ranges of the Seattle Mariners group. On the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s main league debut, April 15, 1997, and once more on the identical day in 2007, Griffey honored Robinson by switching his 24 to 42. The gesture solid the trail for each participant to put on 42 on his again each April 15.
Produced by ESPN Inventive Studio: Michelle Bashaw, Matt Becker, Dominique DeMoe, Heather Donahue, Jarret Gabel, Alecia Hamm, Sean Hintz, Luke Knox, Rylee McIver and Beth Stojkov. Written by Bradford Doolittle. Illustrations by Brandon Loving. Further visuals from AP Photographs, Getty Photographs, Imagn.