Best Pirates of all time, by uniform number
PITTSBURGH -- For some players, names and numbers are interchangeable in conversation. You can’t see “21” in Pittsburgh’s black and gold without thinking of Roberto Clemente. No. 8? That’s Willie Stargell. Bill Mazeroski is No. 9, and there will never be another in Pittsburgh.
But what about all the other uniform numbers worn during the Pirates’ long, storied history?
Here are our picks for the best or most notable players (and managers, in a few cases) to wear each jersey number for the Pirates, based primarily on their time in Pittsburgh rather than their entire careers. Some numbers offered a bunch of good candidates, while others have only been worn once. Some digits are linked to players who wore them at their peak, while others -- especially the higher ones -- were worn briefly before the player moved on to bigger, better and occasionally single-digit things.
00: Rick White
It was White’s 4.03 ERA in 129 outings or Joe Page’s 11.17 ERA in seven outings.
0: Junior Ortiz
The backup catcher for most of the 1980s hit .264 with five homers in 299 games for Pittsburgh.
1: Billy Meyer (retired)
He was named The Sporting News’ Manager of the Year in 1948, but his personality is typically mentioned before his 317-452 record over five years. His number was retired by the Pirates in '54.
2: Jack Wilson
The 2004 All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner totaled 21.3 bWAR during his nine years in Pittsburgh.
3: Elbie Fletcher
This number is loaded with great candidates: Jay Bell, Johnny Ray, Phil Garner, Richie Hebner and Fletcher, the first baseman who led the National League in on-base percentage from 1940-42 and earned an All-Star nod in ’43.
4: Ralph Kiner (retired)
He was a Hall of Famer who hit 301 home runs for the Pirates and led the NL in homers seven straight years from 1946-52.
5: Arky Vaughan
The Hall of Fame shortstop mostly wore No. 21, but, well, that one’s accounted for. With all due respect to Bill Madlock, Sid Bream and Josh Harrison, No. 5 goes to one of the game’s great shortstops.
6: Tony Peña
There’s an argument here for three-time All-Star and 1960 World Series champion Smoky Burgess, and there’s a compelling case for Starling Marte. But the pick here is Peña, one of the best catchers in franchise history and a four-time All-Star who earned three straight Gold Glove Awards from 1983-85.
7: Chuck Tanner
Yes, you could give this one to Dick Stuart or Bob Robertson. But there’s a reason nobody has worn No. 7 since Alex Presley did so from 2012-13: That number belongs to Tanner, the beloved manager of Pittsburgh’s 1979 World Series championship team.
8: Willie Stargell (retired)
Easy call here for the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits who’s also a former NL MVP Award winner and two-time World Series champion.
9: Bill Mazeroski (retired)
The Hall of Fame second baseman hit arguably the most famous home run in the sport’s history: the walk-off shot in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
10: Lloyd Waner
His number hasn’t been retired like that of his brother, but “Little Poison” is a Hall of Famer who hit .319 in 17 seasons with the Pirates.
11: Paul Waner (retired)
They didn’t retire it for “Big Poison” until 2007, but the Hall of Famer was always worthy of the honor.
12: Don Hoak
Freddy Sanchez won a batting title and Mike LaValliere played for some good teams, but this goes to the 1960 World Series champ. He was particularly good that year, batting .282 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs.
13: Jose Lind
Between the time Clemente briefly wore it in 1955 and Ke’Bryan Hayes’ spectacular debut in 2020, manager Clint Hurdle wore No. 13 while bringing winning baseball back to Pittsburgh from 2013-15. Hurdle’s 735 wins as manager rank fourth in franchise history. But we’re sticking to players for non-retired numbers, aside from Tanner’s No. 7, and Lind wore it for some contending teams.
14: Gene Alley
A whopping 51 players have worn this number for the Pirates, but Alley – a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner who was part of the 1971 championship team – stands above the rest.
15: Doug Drabek
It’s tough to pick against Frank Thomas, a really good hitter on some bad teams in the 1950s, but Drabek is just one of two Pirates pitchers to win an NL Cy Young Award.
16: Al Oliver
“Scoop” was an excellent player, a three-time All-Star and a 1971 champion while in Pittsburgh.
17: Dock Ellis
There’s a solid list of No. 17s that includes Donn Clendenon, Lee Lacy, Bob Walk and Ellis. The righty was an All-Star and a World Series champ who threw one of the most talked-about no-hitters.
18: Andy Van Slyke
This one has been worn with distinction by so many -- Bill Virdon, Matty Alou, Omar Moreno, Jason Kendall and Neil Walker among them -- but Van Slyke is the pick for his all-around excellence from 1987-94. He ranks 21st in franchise history with 31 WAR.
19: Bob Friend
He had the NL’s best ERA in 1955 and won a World Series in ’60, and he’s still the franchise’s all-time leader in starts, innings and strikeouts.
20: Pie Traynor (retired)
A Hall of Famer, a career .320 hitter and one of the best third basemen to play the game.
21: Roberto Clemente (retired)
This number is associated throughout baseball, not just Pittsburgh, with this legend on and off the field.
22: Andrew McCutchen
This number once belonged to Bert Blyleven and Richie Zisk, but it will be linked to “Cutch” here for a long time. He was one of the game’s best players at his peak, a five-time All-Star and one-time NL MVP Award winner, as well as the face of the franchise when the Pirates returned to the postseason in 2013.
23: Grant Jackson
The winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series had a 3.23 ERA in 278 games over six seasons.
24: Barry Bonds
With a tip of the cap to 1960 NL MVP Award winner and World Series champ Groat as well as underrated slugger Brian Giles, Bonds was a two-time NL MVP and all-around star -- one of the best to wear a Pittsburgh uniform -- who accumulated 50.3 WAR in only seven seasons with the Pirates.
25: Bruce Kison
Bobby Bonilla was a four-time All-Star and one of the best players in the NL in Pittsburgh, but Kison had a 3.49 ERA and two World Series rings while pitching for a bunch of excellent Pirates teams.
26: Roy Face
The franchise’s all-time leader in saves, and a 1960 World Series champion, spent 15 years in Pittsburgh.
27: Kent Tekulve
Back-to-back appearances by the franchise’s most accomplished relievers, as “Teke” has 158 saves and a 1979 championship to his name.
28: Steve Blass
A beloved figure who spent 60 years working for the Pirates, Blass had an amazing run on the mound in the late 1960s/early ‘70s and delivered on the biggest stage in the '71 World Series.
29: Rick Rhoden
Rhoden wore the number well in the 1980s, posting a 3.51 ERA during an eight-year stint in Pittsburgh that peaked -- and ended -- with an outstanding All-Star campaign in ’86.
30: Rip Sewell
Credited with inventing the eephus, Sewell had 143 wins and a 3.43 ERA in 12 seasons with the Pirates.
31: Harvey Haddix
Dave Giusti deserves to share this number for his work as the Pirates’ closer in the early 1970s, but here’s a nod to Haddix for his role on the '60 championship team and his famous near-perfect game.
32: Vern Law
Law pitched 16 seasons for the Pirates, peaking in 1960 with a World Series championship and the franchise’s first NL Cy Young Award.
33: Honus Wagner (retired)
An inaugural-class Hall of Famer, arguably the greatest shortstop in Major League history and the best player in the Pirates’ long history. This was the first number the club retired, for good reason. He didn’t actually wear it as a player, but later in his career as a coach.
34: Al McBean
A.J. Burnett, John Milner and Nelson Briles played well with 34 on their backs, but McBean’s consistently solid work from 1961-68 -- especially out of the bullpen from ’64-67 -- sets him apart here.
35: Manny Sanguillen
Mark Melancon was consistently excellent, but this number belongs to the three-time All-Star and two-time World Series-winning catcher.
36: Craig Wilson
The competition is thin here, with Ramón Hernández and Kevin Young the other top contenders behind Wilson, who hit 94 homers with an .846 OPS from 2001-06.
37: Burleigh Grimes
The Hall of Famer’s best years in Pittsburgh were 1928-29, but he wore No. 37 during his final run with the Pirates in '34.
38: Jason Bay
The Pirates’ only NL Rookie of the Year Award winner (2004) hit .281 with an .890 OPS and 139 homers over six seasons.
39: Dave Parker
Jason Grilli and Bob Veale were All-Stars wearing No. 39, but come on. This one belongs to the “Cobra.”
40: Danny Murtaugh (retired)
A two-time World Series-winning manager with the second-highest win total in Pirates history.
41: Zane Smith
The lefty was amazing down the stretch in 1990, and he was a part of two more playoff-bound rotations in ’91 and ’92. Overall, he had a 3.35 ERA over six seasons in Pittsburgh.
42: Larry French
Jason Schmidt was the last Pirate to wear this number before MLB retired it for Jackie Robinson. Schmidt was better after he left the Pirates, while French put together some quality years as he worked 1,502 2/3 innings for Pittsburgh from 1929-34. He received NL MVP Award votes in ’33.
43: Don Robinson
You’ll find former closer Mike Williams later on this list, freeing up this spot for the 1979 World Series champion and '82 Silver Slugger Award-winning pitcher. Robinson’s ’78 debut season earned him NL Rookie of the Year Award and NL Cy Young Award votes, and he wound up with a 3.85 ERA over 10 seasons with the Bucs.
44: Tony Watson
A dependable and maybe underappreciated setup man for three straight playoff teams, Watson logged a 2.68 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP while making 450 appearances in parts of seven seasons from 2011-17.
45: John Candelaria
The “Candy Man” went 124-87 with a 3.17 ERA, a World Series ring, an ERA title (1977) and an All-Star nod (also ’77) to his name.
46: Cy Blanton
Garrett Jones hit 100 homers wearing this number, but Blanton’s 1934-39 run was highlighted by his incredible '35 campaign: an 18-13 record, a 2.58 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP (both best in MLB) in 254 1/3 innings.
47: Francisco Liriano
He was the resurgent rock of the Pirates’ rotation from 2013-15, posting a 3.26 ERA over 86 starts for those three postseason clubs. His controversial exit in a '16 trade was more about the front office than him, and he had a solid second act as a veteran middle reliever in '19.
48: Waite Hoyt
The Hall of Fame pitcher won three World Series with the Yankees, including the 1927 Fall Classic against the Pirates, and from 1933-37 he went 35-31 with a 3.08 ERA in 156 games for Pittsburgh.
49: Tim Wakefield
This is less of a pick for what Wakefield did in Pittsburgh, although he did finish third in the 1992 NL Rookie of the Year Award voting after going 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA, and more about what he accomplished later: a 19-year career with 200 wins, an All-Star appearance and two World Series rings with the Red Sox.
50: Stan Belinda
Yes, this one is tough given the way it all ended in 1992. Charlie Morton and Jameson Taillon recently had good years in the rotation wearing No. 50, but we’ll go with Belinda for his bullpen work during Pittsburgh’s early '90s postseason appearances.
51: Michael Gonzalez
This may not be the most exciting pick on this list, but you can’t complain about a 2.37 ERA and 1.22 WHIP from a lefty reliever over four seasons in Pittsburgh.
52: Joel Hanrahan
Fun fact: This was Moises Alou’s number for his two games with the Pirates. Since they didn’t keep him around, Hanrahan’s an easy pick considering his two All-Star appearances, 2.59 ERA, 82 saves and trade return that included another future closer: Melancon.
53: James McDonald
He went 27-24 with a 4.21 ERA from 2010-13. More established players have worn this number -- Melky Cabrera, Joaquin Benoit, John Axford, Miguel Batista, even Ian Snell -- but not for long.
54: Rich “Goose” Gossage
The Hall of Fame reliever was only with the Pirates for one year, but what a year it was: 11 wins and 26 saves with a 1.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 133 innings (72 games) for a squad that went 96-66.
55: Russell Martin
Martin played a huge part in the Pirates’ 2013-14 success and hit the franchise’s most famous home run in a generation off Johnny Cueto in the '13 NL Wild Card Game.
56: Ronny Paulino
This isn’t a group loaded with candidates. Jim Gott only wore this number in 1995 after his best year in the Bucs’ bullpen. Paulino technically only wore it for two games in 2005 before switching to No. 26, but he gets the nod anyway for having a couple of solid seasons behind the plate.
57: John Smiley
The lefty had a 60-42 record and 3.57 ERA over six seasons, the best of which was an All-Star campaign in 1991 that resulted in a third-place NL Cy Young Award finish: a 20-8 record with a 3.08 ERA in 207 2/3 innings.
58: Vicente Palacios
A couple more good years as a starter and this might belong to Jacob Stallings. But for now it’s Palacios, who was a useful pitcher (3.55 ERA, 149 2/3 innings, 63 games) for three straight playoff teams.
59: Rob Mackowiak
Oliver Pérez briefly wore this jersey, but the sentimental pick is Mackowiak -- if only for his famous 2004 doubleheader performance.
60: Randy Kramer
The first player to wear this number for the Pirates gets the nod here, as nobody else wore it for long. The right-hander had a 4.22 ERA in 52 games for Pittsburgh from 1988-89.
61: Sean Burnett
A couple of pitchers wore this jersey briefly, but Burnett stuck with it in 2004 and ’08 before switching to 17 in ‘09. The lefty had a 4.54 ERA in 109 appearances, but he was good enough to be dealt with Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge and Hanrahan -- the first in a chain of bullpen-bolstering trades.
62: Josh Harrison
This is a bit of a reach because “J-Hay” only wore this number in 2011 -- well before he became an All-Star utility man in '14. Harrison went on to have a nice career in a black-and-gold No. 5 jersey.
63: Keith Osik
Nobody’s found much success in this jersey, but Osik had one of his better years in it, batting .293 over 48 games while wearing the number in 1996.
64: Mike Williams
He recorded all of his 140 saves with the Pirates -- the third most in franchise history -- while wearing No. 43, but he arrived in Pittsburgh wearing this number and put together a 1.94 ERA over 51 innings in 1998.
65: Matt Hague
He had 16 hits in 33 games for the Pirates from 2012-14, six fewer than he recorded during the legendary Spring Training of 2012 in which he batted .400 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games and earned the “Hit Collector” nickname from Hurdle.
66: Elias Díaz
The six players to wear this number have combined for -2.2 WAR in a Pirates uniform. At least Díaz, who wore No. 66 during a 2015 season in which he played only two games, had a reasonably productive '18 campaign (as No. 32) before taking a massive step back the next year.
67: Francisco Cordova
He had a 3.96 ERA over five years with the Pirates and threw the first nine innings of a combined no-hitter (finished by Ricardo Rincon) against the Astros on July 12, 1997.
68: Vic Black
This number hasn’t been worn long or particularly well by anybody, so let’s go with Black, the reliever who was sent with prospect Dilson Herrera to the Mets for John Buck and Marlon Byrd, who thrived down the stretch for the Pirates en route to the postseason in 2013.
69: Jordy Mercer
Bronson Arroyo (2000-02) went on to have a nice career elsewhere after wearing this number in Pittsburgh, but Mercer (who debuted in '12 as No. 69 and switched to No. 10 the following season) is the choice here for being a more productive and longer-tenured player with the Pirates.
70: Jared Hughes
Most of the sinkerball reliever’s success came wearing No. 48, but he began his Pirates career wearing this number in 2011. So one of the game’s nicest guys gets the nod.
71: Brian Boehringer
The righty reliever had a strong 2002 season (3.39 ERA in 70 appearances), enough to put him past the other four Bucs to wear this number, then made 83 more appearances over the next two seasons.
72: Nick Tropeano
The complete history of Pirates No. 72s: Enny Romero pitched twice in 2018, Geoff Hartlieb put up a 9.00 ERA in ’19 before pitching better as No. 32 the following year and Tropeano had a 1.15 ERA over 15 2/3 innings in '20.
73: Felipe Vázquez
The closer recorded a 2.17 ERA in four season with the Pirates, being named to two All-Star teams. He was arrested and charged with statutory sexual assault in September 2019.
74: James Marvel
Marvel became the club’s first No. 74 as he logged an 8.31 ERA over four starts in September 2019.
75: Rich Loiselle
None of the four players to wear this number did so for more than a handful of games, but the reliever Loiselle spun his brief stint in the jersey into a solid 1997, when he earned NL Rookie of the Year Award votes.
76: Jared Oliva
Another recent addition, Oliva debuted the Pirates’ No. 76 jersey on Sept. 21, 2020.
77: D.J. Carrasco
It’s either Carrasco (3.88 ERA in 45 games in 2010) or Luis Escobar (7.94 ERA in four games in '19).
78: Wei-Chung Wang
A former Pirates prospect taken by the Brewers in the Rule 5 Draft, he eventually made his way back to wear No. 78 for five appearances in September 2019.
79: Williams Jerez
One of many waiver claims in 2019, Jerez made six subpar appearances as the team’s only No. 79.
80: Andrew Susac
Susac started the final game of the 2020 season for Pittsburgh, becoming the club’s first No. 80.
85: Lastings Milledge
The only No. 85 in Pirates history hit .282 in parts of two seasons (2009-10).
88: Rick White
A necessary repeat as one of two to wear No. 00 for the Bucs -- and the only one to wear No. 88.
89: Miguel Yajure
Acquired from the Yankees for former No. 2 Draft pick Jameson Taillon, the right-handed pitcher debuted in the 2021 season.
97: Joe Beimel
Having pitched in 199 games from 2001-03 and in ’11, Beimel is the only Pirates player to wear a number in the 90s.
99: Todd Frazier
The only No. 99 in Pirates history, Frazier hit .086 in 35 at-bats during the 2021 season before he was released.