Best Tigers of all time, by uniform number

December 28th, 2020

The Tigers' home jersey is one of the most recognizable in baseball thanks to the Olde English "D" on the front. The numbers on the back might take some reminding.

While the greatest Tigers of all have their numbers on the outfield wall at Comerica Park, those cover just a fraction of the range of digits worn by Tigers players over the years. Some are ingrained into memory, but many are long forgotten. With that in mind, here’s one reporter’s list of the greatest players to wear each number in Tigers history.

No number: Ty Cobb
He played in an era before players had jersey numbers, which is why his name hangs on Comerica Park’s outfield wall without a number.

1: Lou Whitaker
The Tigers will retire this number for Whitaker shortly, boosting his case for a future Baseball Hall of Fame vote. His 75.1 WAR ranks 51st all-time; only Barry Bonds and Bill Dahlen have a higher WAR without being in the Hall, among players who are eligible.

2: Charlie Gehringer
The Tigers retired the number for Gehringer in 1983, 40 years after his career ended. The lifelong Michigander was nicknamed "The Mechanical Man" for his remarkable consistency.

3: Alan Trammell
Tram’s number was retired in 2018 following his long-awaited induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s one of just two Tigers to spend their entire 20-plus-year career in Detroit.

4: Goose Goslin
Rudy York, Tony Phillips and Bobby Higginson had more productive Tigers tenures, but Goslin spent four years in Detroit near the end of his Hall of Fame career. He was a key player on the 1935 World Series champions and an All-Star in '36 at age 35, batting .315 with 24 homers and 125 RBIs.

5: Hank Greenberg
The Tigers retired Greenberg’s number in 1983. Greenberg was a two-time MVP Award winner and two-time World Series champion who sacrificed three-plus years of his Hall of Fame career to serve his country during World War II. His offensive numbers are awe-inspiring, including 184 RBIs in 1937.

6: Al Kaline
The Tigers hadn’t retired a number until Kaline was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1980. He spent his entire 22-year career in Detroit, debuting at age 18 in '53, winning a batting title at age 20 and joining the 3,000-hit club at age 39.

7: Ivan Rodriguez
Harvey Kuenn and Rocky Colavito wore the number during their time with Detroit, but Rodriguez spent five seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Tigers and helped lead the club from a 119-loss season in 2003 to a World Series berth three years later.

8: Ray Boone
Ron LeFlore has a strong case, but Boone was a two-time All-Star who led the American League with 116 RBIs in 1955.

9: Carlos Guillen
His trade from Seattle was one of the greatest deals of the Dave Dombrowski era as Tigers GM. Guillen was a three-time All-Star shortstop and arguably the key cog on the 2006 Tigers with a .920 OPS and a near 20-20 season.

10: Tommy Bridges
Bridges earned six All-Star selections, had three consecutive 20-win seasons and pitched in four World Series, earning the win over the Cubs in the deciding Game 6 in 1935.

11: Bill Freehan
Though this number is retired for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, it should belong equally to Freehan, an 11-time All-Star who won five Gold Glove Awards and was a mainstay behind the plate at Tiger Stadium for 14 seasons.

12: Bobo Newsom
Maybe Casey Mize takes this number to new heights, but Newsom went 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 168 ERA+ on the 1940 American League champions.

13: Lance Parrish
He earned six All-Star selections in a seven-year stretch behind the plate for Detroit and led the 1984 Tigers with 33 homers and 98 RBIs.

14: Jim Bunning
He went into the Hall of Fame wearing a Phillies cap, but spent the bulk of his career as a Tiger, mostly wearing this number. He was a 20-game winner in 1957 and threw a no-hitter for the Tigers in '58.

15: Joe Coleman
Arriving from Washington in the Denny McLain trade, Coleman was a workhorse in the Tigers' rotation in the early 1970s. He was a 20-game winner in '71 and won 62 games over his first three seasons in Detroit, playing a critical role in the Tigers’ AL East title in '72.

16: Hal Newhouser
The Tigers retired the number for Newhouser following his Hall of Fame induction in 1992. He won back-to-back AL MVP Awards in '44-45, leading Detroit to a World Series title in the latter, then nearly won the award again in '46. Over that three-year stretch, Newhouser went 80-27 with a 1.99 ERA and a 180 ERA+.

17: Denny McLain
Baseball’s last 30-game winner won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 1968-69 and was the '68 AL MVP Award winner.

18: John Hiller
Hiller leads all Tigers relievers -- and is fourth among all MLB relievers -- in career WAR.

19: Aníbal Sánchez
Though Dave Rozema had a longer Tigers tenure, Sánchez was a key addition to the 2012 AL champions, led the league in ERA in '13 and holds the franchise record with 17 strikeouts in a game.

20: Mark Fidrych
Vic Wertz had the better career, earning three All-Star selections in Detroit, but Fidrych’s rookie season in 1976 remains central in Tigers lore.

21: George Kell
Kell actually wore three numbers during his Hall of Fame career, but this was the most prominent, including when he won the AL batting title in 1949 and hit 56 doubles in '50.

22: Virgil Trucks
Trucks wore five numbers over his 12 seasons in Detroit, but this one he wore the most, including when he threw two no-hitters in 1952.

23: Willie Horton
Though Kirk Gibson wore 23 throughout his Tigers tenure, Horton is a hometown hero in Detroit, and the number was retired for Horton in 2000. Both are World Series heroes, but Horton’s heroics to throw out Lou Brock at the plate arguably changed the momentum of the '68 Series against the Cardinals.

24: Miguel Cabrera
Assuming Miggy goes into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger, this number will eventually be retired for him. He has four batting titles, two MVP Awards and a Triple Crown Award in a Tigers uniform, and he will likely join the 3,000-hit and 500-homer clubs soon.

25: Norm Cash
This was Kaline’s number his first two years, but Cash wore it for all 15 seasons he spent in Detroit. That includes 1961, when he won the AL batting title with a .361 average, 41 homers, 132 RBIs and a 201 OPS+ -- and finished fourth in the MVP Award voting.

26: Gates Brown
Gator wore this number when he supposedly stuffed a hot dog in his jersey while pinch-hitting. He also wore it batting .370 off the bench for the 1968 World Series champion Tigers with six homers, 15 RBIs, 12 walks, four strikeouts and a 1.127 OPS.

27: Craig Monroe
Jhonny Peralta was a two-time All-Star wearing this jersey, but Monroe led the 2006 AL champion Tigers with 28 home runs, then hit five more in the postseason.

28: Curtis Granderson
Sluggers Prince Fielder and J.D. Martinez wore the number later, but Granderson remains one of the most beloved Tigers of the Comerica Park era. His 2007 season, during which he batted .302 with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers and a .913 OPS, was truly great.

29: Mickey Lolich
The 1968 World Series MVP Award winner won three games in the Fall Classic, then had a quiet four-year run as one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers.

30: Magglio Ordonez
His walk-off homer in the 2006 AL Championship Series will forever be a Tigers memory, but Ordonez arguably deserved MVP honors in 2007 and was a clutch hitter deep into his 30s.

31: Larry Herndon
An underrated hitter on the great Tigers teams of the early to mid-80s, Herndon hit a go-ahead home run in Game 1 of the 1984 World Series that proved critical.

32: Michael Fulmer
Don Kelly was a postseason hero with his home run in Game 5 of the 2011 AL Division Series, but Fulmer won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in '16 and was an All-Star the following season.

33: Steve Kemp
The first overall pick in the 1976 Draft was the Tigers’ offensive leader in '79 and '80 before he was traded to the White Sox for Chet Lemon.

34: Chet Lemon
His arrival from the White Sox gave Detroit its center fielder and an offensive catalyst for most of the 1980s.

35: Justin Verlander
This number will be retired once Verlander goes into the Hall of Fame, though he wore 59 for two spot starts in 2005.

36: Jeff Weaver
Though Edwin Jackson was an All-Star wearing this number in Detroit in 2009, Weaver anchored the Tigers' pitching staff for three seasons after they took him in the first round of the 1998 Draft.

37: Max Scherzer
Kenny Rogers was an All-Star and postseason workhorse wearing this number in 2006, but Scherzer’s 2013-14 seasons provided one of the more dominant two-year stretches by a pitcher in Tigers history, including an AL Cy Young Award and back-to-back All-Star selections.

38: Brian Moehler
A workhorse of the Tigers' rotation in the late 1990s, Moehler also started the first game at Comerica Park in 2000.

39: Milt Wilcox
Mike Henneman has a really strong case here with 154 career saves as a Tiger, second only to Todd Jones. Wilcox wins out with 14.1 WAR over nine years in Detroit and wins in the 1984 ALCS and World Series.

40: Phil Coke
Several solid Major Leaguers wore No. 40 during brief Tigers tenures, but Coke wore 40 throughout his eventful five-year stint in Detroit, mainly as a lefty reliever. He originally planned to wear 46 after his trade from the Yankees, but he lost it when Detroit signed Jose Valverde.

41: Darrell Evans
Victor Martinez had a longer, more productive stay in Detroit, but Evans is best remembered for his leadership on the 1984 World Series champions and 40-homer season in 1985.

42: Jose Lima
A 0.0 WAR doesn’t make Lima Time the most valuable Tiger to wear No. 42, but he was the last to wear it before Major League Baseball retired the number in 1997. Lima posted a 17-32 record and 6.04 ERA in five seasons, but he was memorable and entertaining.

43: Daryl Patterson
This was Whitaker’s number as a rookie in 1977, but Patterson spent four seasons in Detroit as an underrated reliever. He pitched three scoreless innings in the '68 World Series.

44: Billy Hoeft
No Tiger had worn this number until Hoeft made his MLB debut at age 19 in 1952. He was an All-Star in '55 and a 20-game winner in '56.

45: Cecil Fielder
Fielder hit 245 home runs over seven seasons while wearing this number in Detroit, including his historic 51-homer season in 1990.

46: Dan Petry
Despite being overshadowed by Jack Morris in the Tigers' rotation, Petry averaged just fewer than 17 wins a season from 1982-85, including an 18-8 record and a 121 ERA+ in '84.

47: Jack Morris
The Tigers retired this number in 2018 following Morris’ induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, a four-time All-Star in Detroit and he threw a no-hitter in '84.

48: Torii Hunter
Spent just two seasons as a Tiger, but Hunter was a 2013 All-Star, a key hitter and a veteran cog on Detroit’s last two AL Central championship clubs.

49: Jason Grilli
Both Jason and his dad, Steve, wore this number as Tigers. The younger Grilli was a versatile reliever in Detroit in 2006 and '07.

50: Andy Van Hekken
The Holland, Mich., native pitched just five games for the Tigers in 2002 and never made it to the big leagues again, but he threw a shutout in his Major League debut. That earns him the nod over Andrew Miller and Mike Fiers. Van Hekken went on to a long career pitching in Japan.

51: Matt Anderson
The former No. 1 overall Draft pick wore this number for part of his rookie season in 1998, his first year in pro ball and most productive year by WAR. The 21-year-old struck out 44 batters in as many innings to complement a 5-1 record and 3.27 ERA in 42 appearances.

52: Yoenis Céspedes
His stay in Detroit lasted just more than half a season in 2015, but Céspedes hit .293 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in 102 games.

53: Joaquin Benoit
While Jose Valverde got the headlines, Benoit was the more important free-agent bullpen acquisition to lift the Tigers in 2011. Benoit was a standout setup man in '11 and '12 before he became Detroit’s closer in '13, racking up 220 strikeouts over 199 innings along the way.

54: Joel Zumaya
Just seven players have worn this number as a Tiger. Only one of them has hit 103 mph on a radar gun in a Major League ballpark.

55: Mark Redman
The big lefty finished 2002 as the Tigers’ ace before Detroit traded him to Florida for Nate Robertson. His 2.7 bWAR led a team that earned just 55 wins.

56: Fernando Rodney
His days as Tigers closer seem like forever ago, but Rodney pitched in 308 games over seven seasons in Detroit, concluding with a 37-save effort in 2009.

57: Francisco Rodríguez
"K-Rod" racked up 44 saves at age 34 in 2016, then he was released midway through the following season and never pitched in MLB again.

58: Doug Fister
Armando Galarraga threw a would-be perfect game wearing this number, but Fister was a great pitcher for three seasons in Detroit and one of Dombrowski’s greatest Trade Deadline acquisitions.

59: Todd Jones
The Tigers' all-time saves leader was an All-Star in 2000. Jones bounced around teams for the next five seasons, then came back as Detroit’s closer in '06.

60: Ronny Rodríguez
"El Felino" was a streaky, power-hitting utility infielder who slugged 14 homers in 2019. He’s also a rap artist in his native Dominican Republic.

61: Shane Greene
One of just three Tigers to wear this number, Greene piled up 65 saves and an All-Star selection as Detroit’s closer.

62: Al Alburquerque
"Al-Al" had a quirky personality and a wipeout slider; the latter helped him rack up 276 strikeouts over 225 innings in five years as a Tiger.

63: Nick Ramirez
One of just six Tigers to wear 63, Ramirez was a long reliever from 2019-20 after converting from a slugging first baseman in the Minor Leagues.

64: Duane Below
The Britton, Mich., native pitched in 41 games out of Detroit’s bullpen in 2011-12.

65: Blaine Hardy
The versatile lefty wore this number for half of his six-year Tigers tenure, including 70 games as a setup man in 2015.

66: Eduardo Jiménez
This number has appeared in 26 games for the Tigers, all from relievers. Jiménez pitched in eight games in 2019.

67: José Cisnero
One of just two Tigers to wear the number, Cisnero has become a high-strikeout reliever in Detroit’s bullpen after five years out of the Major Leagues.

68: Daniel Stumpf
The only Tiger to wear 68 was a Rule 5 Draft pick who spent three years in Detroit’s bullpen, posting a 4.66 ERA and 100 strikeouts over 110 innings.

70: Tyler Alexander
This lefty swingman tied Fister’s AL record by striking out nine consecutive batters in a game.

71: John Schreiber
The Michigan native and side-arming reliever wins this by default as the only Tiger to wear 71.

74: Ugueth Urbina
A veteran closer, Urbina saved 30 games in Detroit in 2004-05 before being traded to Philadelphia for Placido Polanco.

77: Joe Jiménez
The Tigers’ only No. 77 was an All-Star reliever in 2018 and ended '19 as Detroit’s closer.

94: Jose Mesa
Mesa, a veteran reliever, wore No. 49 at most of his eight big league stops, but it wasn’t available when he signed with the Tigers for 2007, so he switched the digits. He posted a 12.34 ERA in 16 appearances and was released.