Each club's last player to wear iconic No. 42
In 1997, Major League Baseball honored Jackie Robinson by making his No. 42 the first uniform number to be retired across the sport.
That said, players who were wearing No. 42 at the time could choose to continue wearing it until they retired. Thus, some teams have had a player wear No. 42 more recently than others -- and some have never handed out that uniform to anyone.
Here's a look at the last player to wear No. 42 for each MLB team:
American League East
Blue Jays: Xavier Hernandez (1989)
Hernandez, a right-handed relief pitcher, made his debut with the Blue Jays in 1989 and appeared in seven games, covering 22 2/3 innings that season before the Astros selected him in the Rule 5 Draft. Toronto had drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in '86 and he developed as a starter, but came out of the bullpen for the majority of his 10-year Major League career.
Back on June 4, 1989, Hernandez’s debut with the Blue Jays was a heavy lift for a reliever, as he threw 93 pitches over 6 2/3 innings after starter Alex Sanchez recorded just a single out. He was followed by some Blue Jays greats that day in Tom Henke, David Wells and Duane Ward, who eventually earned the win as Toronto topped the Red Sox, 13-11.
Orioles: Lenny Webster (1997-99)
A journeyman backup catcher, Webster wore four uniform numbers for three teams before arriving in Baltimore on a free-agent contract in December 1996 and being assigned No. 42. He only wore the number for a short time before MLB retired it, which made Webster eligible to keep wearing it. Webster then appeared in 222 games over parts of the next three seasons, hitting .265 with 17 home runs, mainly as Chris Hoiles’ backup. Webster’s last game with the club came on May 12, 1999, in Cleveland, also marking the last time an Oriole would wear No. 42. He finished his career with stints with the Red Sox and Expos, wearing different numbers at each stop.
Rays: Never issued No. 42
Red Sox: Mo Vaughn (1991-98)
The man known as the “Hit Dog” throughout his eight years with the Red Sox wore No. 42 in honor of Robinson, his hero, and by wearing the number again for the Mets from 2002-03, Vaughn was the last Black player in MLB history to have 42 as his uniform number. The AL Most Valuable Player in 1995, Vaughn belted 230 homers and had a .936 OPS for the Red Sox.
Yankees: Mariano Rivera (1995-2013)
Credit former Yankees clubhouse attendant Nick Priore for issuing No. 42 to Rivera. The all-time saves leader and baseball's first unanimous Hall of Famer wore the digits in each of the 1,115 regular season games he pitched, plus 96 more in the postseason.
Along the way, Rivera grew to learn and understand the significance of No. 42, beginning with baseball's decision to unilaterally retire it in April 1997. By virtue of his longevity and playing for a New York team, Rivera developed and enjoyed a lasting bond with Robinson's family.
“I was blessed that, as the years went by, people wearing that number kept retiring and I kept going to the point that I was the last one standing,” Rivera said. “At that point, it was even more demanding, the amount of responsibility I had wearing that number. That was real pressure.
“I wanted to make Mr. Jackie Robinson proud of the legacy that he left us. Me, being the last No. 42, doing it in a great arena as New York, I was thankful for the legacy he left for us to continue pushing it forward, passing it down to the next generation.”
Guardians: Michael Jackson (1997-99)
Jackson is the last to wear No. 42 for two different clubs (Cleveland and Twins). He sported the number on the back of his uniform toward the end of Cleveland's magical 1990s teams from 1997-99, when he played a key role as a late-innings reliever. The club's fans rarely need to be reminded of how the ‘97 season came to an end, but Jackson was a huge part in helping the club get all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. In 13 postseason appearances that year, Jackson permitted just one run in 13 1/3 innings (0.68 ERA) with 16 strikeouts. He came back in ‘98 to lead Cleveland's ‘pen with a 1.55 ERA in a team-high 64 frames while racking up 40 saves. In ‘99, he still accumulated 39 saves, but Jackson wasn’t quite as dominant, owning a 4.06 ERA in 72 appearances. The 34-year-old became a free agent after that season and continued to pitch until he was 39, when he ended his career with the 2004 White Sox.
Royals: Tom Goodwin (1995-97)
Goodwin wore No. 42 for three years in Kansas City before he was traded in 1997 and MLB retired the number. Goodwin was selected off waivers from the Dodgers in '94 and played in just two games that year with the Royals, but he broke out in ‘95 and finished ninth in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting with a .288/.346/.358 slash line and 16 doubles. Goodwin declined slightly in the next two years and was traded on July 25, 1997, to the Rangers for third baseman Dean Palmer, who made the '98 All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger Award in Kansas City.
Tigers: Jose Lima (2001-02)
Lima actually wore No. 32 in his first stint with the Tigers, being called up from Toledo as a 21-year-old in 1994. Detroit traded him in a nine-player deal on Dec. 10, 1996, to Houston, where he wore No. 42. When the Tigers reacquired Lima from the Astros for Dave Mlicki on June 23, 2001, Lima stuck with No. 42. The fly-ball pitcher posted a 17-32 record and 6.04 ERA in 95 career appearances for the Tigers, but his outgoing personality and mound mannerisms made him a fan favorite. He tossed seven scoreless innings while allowing only two hits against the Royals to outduel Paul Byrd on a fireworks night in a game that lasted just one hour and 41 minutes, then stayed well after the game to sign autographs for fans while they waited for nightfall. Lima died of a heart attack on May 23, 2010, at just 37 years old.
Twins: Michael Jackson (2002)
Jackson alternated between wearing No. 38 and No. 42 for much of his 17-year MLB career, and he became the final player to wear No. 42 for the Twins in 2002, when he served as a late-inning reliever for an AL Central championship team that also featured Eddie Guardado, Tony Fiore, LaTroy Hawkins and J.C. Romero in the bullpen. Jackson posted a 3.27 ERA in 58 appearances despite striking out only 29 batters in 55 innings in his age-37 season. He made one appearance in the '02 AL Division Series against the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s before pitching three times -- all in losing efforts -- in the Twins’ Championship Series loss to the Angels.
No. 42 was worn for the longest time as a Twin by Dick Such, who wore it from 1985-97 while serving as pitching coach under Ray Miller and Tom Kelly.
White Sox: Scott Ruffcorn (1996)
The White Sox had high hopes for the right-hander when they selected him 25th overall in the 1991 MLB Draft, but Ruffcorn didn’t live up to those expectations despite having great success at the Minor League level. Ruffcorn actually never won a big league game, finishing 0-8 with an 8.57 ERA over parts of five seasons. The right-hander posted an 0-5 mark with a 9.68 ERA over 12 games (five starts) with the White Sox and has been out of baseball since '99.
Angels: Mo Vaughn (1999-2000)
Vaughn wore No. 42 for his entire career from 1991-2003, including his two-year stint with the Angels from 1999-2000. The Angels signed Vaughn to a six-year, $80-million deal before the '99 season that was a disaster from the start, as he fell down the steps in the dugout in his first game and severely injured his left ankle. Vaughn was traded to the Mets for Kevin Appier before the 2002 season.
Astros: Jose Lima (1997-2001)
Lima was 24 years old when he was traded from the Tigers to the Astros, along with catcher Brad Ausmus, pitchers Trever Miller and C.J. Nitkowski and slugger Daryle Ward on Dec. 10, 1996, in exchange for pitchers Doug Brocail and Todd Jones, outfielder Brian Hunter, shortstop Orlando Miller and cash. Lima had posted a 6.24 ERA in 57 career games (20 starts) with the Tigers, and he certainly gave no indication of the success that lay ahead of him in Houston. He pitched in the bullpen with the Astros in '97 before putting up a pair of improbable seasons as a starter for Houston’s playoff teams. He went 16-8 with a 3.70 ERA in ‘98 and 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA while making the NL All-Star team in ’99. He finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting that season.
Lima’s success was short-lived. A fly-ball pitcher, he didn’t fare well when the Astros moved from the cavernous Astrodome to Enron Field in 2000. He gave up 48 home runs that season and went 7-16 in 33 starts. "Lima Time" was over. He was traded back to the Tigers in '01 and bounced around thereafter.
Athletics: Buddy Groom (1996-97)
Groom signed with the A’s in 1996 and immediately became a workhorse out of the bullpen. He appeared in a career-high 78 games in 1997 and posted a 5.15 ERA. In 150 outings from 1996-97, he combined for a 4.44 ERA.
Mariners: Butch Huskey (1999)
Huskey donned No. 42 in just 74 games for the Mariners after coming over in a December 1998 trade with the Mets before being shipped to Boston ahead of the ’99 Trade Deadline as a valuable late-season chip for the contending Red Sox. In his short Seattle stint, Huskey slashed .290/.353/.496 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and a 112 OPS+. When he first broke into the Majors with the Mets in 1993, Huskey wore No. 10 before switching to No. 42 in ’95 to pay tribute to Robinson.
The Mariners had 11 other players wear Robinson’s number over the years before it was universally retired in 1997 -- including star shortstop Omar Vizquel, who donned it when he first got called up in '89, simply because it was what was available at the time. He switched to No. 13 by season’s end.
Rangers: Marc Sagmoen (1997)
Sagmoen was a 13th-round pick in the 1993 MLB Draft, and he didn’t debut for the club until '97. His first Major League hit was an inside-the-park home run at Kauffman Stadium against the Royals. He would go on to play only 21 games for the Rangers, batting .140 with four RBIs and just that one home run.
Sagmoen ironically made his Major League debut on April 15, 1997, which was the same day MLB opted to retire Jackie Robinson’s number league-wide. Thus, he was the last player to debut wearing No. 42.
Braves: Armando Reynoso (1991-92)
Some Braves fans might remember Rick Mahler wearing No. 42 during most of the 1980s, but few may remember that the club’s last player to ever wear the number was Reynoso, who totaled nine appearances for Atlanta. He posted a 6.17 ERA over six outings (five starts) in '91 and a 4.70 ERA in three appearances (one start) in '92.
Reynoso last wore No. 42 for the Braves on Oct. 3, 1992, when he tossed a scoreless inning and notched his only career save in what became a rain-shortened six-inning game. He was taken by the Rockies in the 1992 Expansion Draft, and he ended up spending the next 10 seasons with the Rockies, Mets and D-backs.
Marlins: Dennis Cook (1997)
When the Marlins signed Cook as a free agent in December 1996, he had already played for six teams in his nine Major League seasons, all while sporting six numbers. During his two-year stint with the Rangers preceding his '97 campaign in South Florida, he also donned No. 42.
The then-34-year-old left-hander served as closer Robb Nen's setup man, posting a 3.90 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in 59 regular-season outings. Arguably more impressive might be that Cook went 5-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs, including an extra-inning walk-off hit. During the Marlins' World Series run, he allowed just one hit, walked two and struck out 10 in nine scoreless innings across seven postseason appearances.
Mets: Mo Vaughn (2002-03)
Vaughn has the distinction of being the last to wear No. 42 for three different clubs: the Red Sox, Angels and Mets. His Mets tenure was the least distinguished of the three, as it didn’t occur until his mid-30s. Still, Vaughn was productive throughout a 26-homer season in 2002 before tailing off in his final year as a Major League player.
The Mets have a special link with No. 42, given their proximity to the former site of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and their birth as a replacement for the Dodgers and Giants franchises in New York. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field contains a large No. 42 sculpture that greets fans as they file into the ballpark’s main entrance, along with inscriptions of famous Robinson quotations.
Nationals/Expos: Kirk Rueter (1993-96)
Rueter wore No. 42 for his entire three-plus year career with the Expos from 1993-96. Selected by Montreal in the 18th round of the ‘91 Draft, the left-hander went 8-0 and finished seventh in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in ‘93. Overall, he made 59 starts and was 25-12 with a 4.03 ERA with the Expos. After being traded to the Giants, Rueter changed his uniform to No. 45 in ‘97. Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s legendary number eight years before the franchise relocated to Washington.
Phillies: Toby Borland (1994-96)
Borland played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues, including his first three with the Phillies. He once told an amazing Larry Bowa story to The Philadelphia Inquirer. When Borland got hit hard in a 1995 game at Veterans Stadium, manager Jim Fregosi removed him from the game and Borland jogged from the mound to the dugout under a torrent of boos. Bowa, who was Fregosi’s third-base coach, greeted him. “Bowa got right in my face and yelled, ‘Let me tell you something, if you pitch bad in this place, don’t run off the mound! You walk off the mound and you walk slow! Give them a chance to boo you, because you deserve it!’”
Brewers: Scott Karl (1995-99)
You might be surprised to hear that Karl had the same ERA+ in a Brewers uniform (103) as another notable left-hander in franchise history: Mike Caldwell. Karl never had a chance to author the postseason moments that Caldwell did, but the former did make at least 32 starts in all four of his full seasons with the team. Drafted by the Brewers in the sixth round in 1992 out of the University of Hawaii, Karl was packaged with All-Star infielder Jeff Cirillo in a three-team trade in 1999 that netted the Brewers Henry Blanco and Jamey Wright from the Rockies, and Jimmy Haynes from the A’s.
Cardinals: José Oliva (1995)
In August 1995, the Braves had little room to play Oliva, so they made the tough decision to trade the third baseman to the Cardinals in exchange for Anton French. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said at the time that Oliva had “more than big league power -- he’s got Major League power,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was power the Cardinals wanted, but they never truly got it in the Majors, as Oliva went on to bat just .122 over 22 games to close the '95 season. He spent the next year in the Minors, blasting 31 homers for Triple-A Louisville, before moving on from St. Louis and playing a year in China. Oliva died in a car accident in '97 at the age of 26.
Cubs: Dave Smith (1991-92)
Following the 1992 season, no Cubs player wore Robinson’s No. 42. That made the late Dave Smith the last player in franchise history to don the historic digits. Smith concluded a 13-year big league career (spent mostly as a late-inning reliever for the Astros) with a two-season stint with the North Siders. The right-hander had a 4.94 ERA in 46 games for Chicago. Prior to Smith, the most notable No. 42 in Cubs history was Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, who was a four-time All-Star and 1979 NL Cy Young Award winner for Chicago.
The player who broke the color barrier for the Cubs was none other than Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, who debuted in 1953 and spent each of his 19 seasons with Chicago. Banks’ No. 14 is retired by the franchise. In '62, the legendary Buck O’Neil became the first black coach in the Major Leagues with the Cubs.
Pirates: Jason Schmidt (1996-97)
Schmidt, who had a 14-year Major League career, bounced between four uniform numbers, but his first with the Pirates was No. 42. Schmidt donned No. 42 after he was traded to Pittsburgh as the player to be named later in the 1996 Denny Neagle trade. When Robinson’s number was retired, the right-hander opted to wear No. 22.
Schmidt went on to have a great late-career resurgence in San Francisco, where he was runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award in 2003 behind a rare relief winner in Eric Gagne. Before Schmidt’s career was over, he got to play for Robinson’s Dodgers in Los Angeles, signing as a free agent in ‘06 and wearing No. 29.
Reds: Roger Salkeld (1996)
The No. 42 was a revolving door for a cavalcade of Reds players, with seven different occupants over the final decade before being retired to honor Robinson. Its final regular Reds user was Salkeld, who spent one season in the big leagues with Cincinnati and parts of three overall in the Majors.
Salkeld, the third overall pick by the Mariners in the 1989 Draft -- and grandson of former Major League catcher Bill Salkeld -- was traded from Seattle to Cincinnati in 1995 for pitcher Tim Belcher. Salkeld returned to the big leagues in ‘96 in a swingman role and went 8-5 with a 5.20 ERA in 29 games, including 19 starts and 116 innings. He spent four more seasons pitching in the Minor Leagues and left baseball after 2000.
D-backs: Never issued No. 42
Dodgers: Ray Lamb (1969)
Believe it or not, Robinson wasn’t the last Dodger to wear No. 42. As the franchise tried to move past its Brooklyn history and embrace a new beginning in Los Angeles, the Dodgers issued the number to Ray Lamb, a right-handed reliever who played his college ball at USC. Lamb wore the number from Aug. 1 until the end of that season, and had success, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 appearances. The following year, the Dodgers realized their mistake and Lamb switched to No. 34. A year after that, Lamb was traded to Cleveland. Robinson’s number was later retired by the club in 1972.
Giants: Kirk Rueter (1996-97)
Regarded as one of the most popular Giants of the San Francisco era, Rueter became known as “Woody” due to his striking resemblance to the animated cowboy from the Pixar hit "Toy Story." He enjoyed a decade-long run with the Giants, going 105-80 with a 4.32 ERA over 281 appearances, and he was the winningest left-hander in San Francisco history until Madison Bumgarner burst onto the scene.
Rueter famously pitched a game for the Giants on the day his first daughter was born, and he also holds the distinction of starting the first regular-season game at Oracle Park in 2000.
Padres: Pedro Martinez (1993-94)
No, not that Pedro Martinez. “The left-handed Pedro Martinez” is how he’s often specified. And while he didn’t have a Hall of Fame career and doesn’t qualify as one of the best pitchers who ever lived, the left-handed Pedro Martinez was a useful reliever across two seasons in San Diego.
He posted a 2.73 ERA over 80 appearances for the Padres after his 1993 breakthrough. Martinez is perhaps best known as an important piece in one of the most consequential trades in franchise history. He went to Houston along with Derek Bell and three others in the 11-player blockbuster that landed Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley in San Diego.
Rockies: Armando Reynoso (1993-96)
Reynoso’s big break came in 1993, when he joined the expansion Rockies -- after, it turned out, being the last Braves player to wear No. 42. Reynoso donned the number with Colorado and had his best season in the team’s first year. He went 12-11 with a 4.00 ERA over 189 innings in 30 starts in what was quickly discovered to be a hitter-friendly environment.
Reynoso continued as a gritty starter for the Rockies through 1996, the year before No. 42 was taken out of circulation. In 1997, he pitched for the Mets on the day of the ceremony at Shea Stadium on April 15.