We are going back through Red Sox history for this Memorial Day, but not by position or era or anything like that. Instead, today we’re going to look through the vast history of uniform numbers in franchise history. The Red Sox have been wearing numbers on their uniforms since 1931, and have issued numbers ranging from 0 all the way up to 94. Today’s task: Find the best player for each number. Shoutout to our friends at Royals Review for this one. I straight up stole this idea from them. Also shoutout to Baseball-Reference for their list of players by uniform number.
0: Brandon Phillips (2018)
Phillips is the only player who has worn number zero in franchise history. He played only nine games for the Red Sox and posted a 42 OPS+, but he also had one of the most memorable moments from that regular season.
1: Bobby Doerr (1938-1951)
Doerr’s number one is retired, which almost (you’ll see later why I say almost) guarantees him the nod. One of the best players in franchise history, he was a key cog in Boston’s successful 1940s clubs. Bernie Carbo also wore number one.
2: Xander Bogaerts (2014-Present)
Bogaerts is certainly a worthy name on this list, and given how he’s played the last few years, and really his entire career, plus the fact that he’s shown a willingness to stay in Boston long-term, it’s not out of the question he has his number retired as well. I was actually a little surprised, though, that there weren’t really many notable older players who wore this number.
3: Jimmie Foxx (1936-1942)
This was a very easy call. Foxx didn’t spend his entire illustrious career with the Red Sox and is more known as an Athletics player, but the first baseman is easily the best number three, and also the best first baseman in team history.
4: Joe Cronin (1935-1945)
We have another retired number here, with Cronin being one of the top players for the franchise in the 1930s. Cronin made five All-Star teams in his time with the Red Sox, and also served as a player-manager (and later a regular manager) with a .539 winning percentage in 13 years. Jackie Jensen gets a shoutout here as well.
5: Nomar Garciaparra (1996-2004)
As a child of the late 90s and early aughts, I know I certainly think of Nomar when I think of the number five, though I expected there might be older players who better fit here. That was not the case, however, as Garciaparra’s peak fairly easily earned him the nod over guys like George Scott and Vern Stephens, both of whom had their best years with other clubs.
6: Rico Petrocelli (1966-1976)
This is the case alluded to above where a player for whom a number is a retired does not get the nod. Johnny Pesky’s number six is retired by the Red Sox, and his role with the club throughout his entire life merits that. In terms of pure talent on the field, though, I give the slight edge to Petrocelli, though it is admittedly a coin flip.
7: Dom DiMaggio (1940-1953)
This was one of the more interesting numbers in franchise history, with a couple of my favorites from more recent history — Trot Nixon and J.D. Drew — not even really being considered. DiMaggio gets the nod for his eleven very strong years that were interrupted for three years due to military service in World War II. Reggie Smith was also right there as well.
8: Carl Yastrzemski (1961-1983)
This was one of the easiest decisions on this list. No explanation needed here, I would think.
9: Ted Williams (1939-1960)
Again, no explanation here. Number nine is the number that has had the longest amount of time pass since it was last worn, as no one has donned the number since Williams retired in 1960.
10: Lefty Grove (1934-1941)
Grove is another player whose best years are not associated with the Red Sox, with the first half of his career, as well as his MVP season, coming in Philadelphia. He made five straight All-Star teams with Boston, though, and pitched to a 143 ERA+ in eight years.
11: Frank Malzone (1956-1965)
This was a really tough one, though longevity hands it to Malzone. More of an average bat, the third baseman was very good at the hot corner and played in the right era to appreciate his batting average led skillset that led to him grabbing eight All-Star nods in his career. Rafael Devers, Clay Buchholz and Bill Mueller also have worn this number in more recent years.
12: Ellis Burks (1987-1992)
Burks ended up having his best years out in the AL West with the Rockies in Giants in the mid- and late-90s, but his career got started with the Red Sox. The outfielder had a strong three-year stretch, too, posting a 130 OPS+ from 1988-1990. Pumpsie Green also gets a shoutout for his number 12, and as the first player of color for the franchise after the color barrier was broken, there’s a fair argument the number should be retired in his honor.
13: John Valentin (1992-2001)
Baseball players are a superstitious bunch, and the Red Sox didn’t hand out number 13 from 1951 through 1984. Valentin donned the number in the 90s, though, and was outstanding. He is, indeed, one of the more underrated players in the history of the franchise.
14: Jim Rice (1974-1989)
Another retired number, another easy call. There’s arguments over Rice’s place in the Hall of Fame, but regardless of where you fall he was, indeed, one of the most feared hitters of his era.
15: Dustin Pedroia (2007-Present)
Injuries likely took away a chance at Cooperstown from Pedroia, but he’s obviously one of the top players in the history of the franchise at his position, particularly when you add in his contributions to championship clubs in 2007 and 2013.
16: Ellis Kinder (1948-1955)
This was another tough one, as the Red Sox have had a few very good players at this number but not many great ones. Kinder was an early-day closer, though, and one of the best at that position in the 50s. Frank Viola and Andrew Benintendi were in consideration here as well.
17: Mel Parnell (1947-1956)
The 1940s Red Sox clubs were more known for their offense than their pitching, particularly due to Ted Williams, but Parnell was a key cog on those rosters as well, particularly in his signature 1949 season. Dick Radatz was a close runner-up here as well.
18: Johnny Damon (2002-2005)
Damon’s legacy in Boston is a bit complicated with the highs coming from his key role atop the 2004 lineup and the lows coming a couple years later when he signed with the Yankees. The pros outweigh the cons here, though, and put him ahead of Frank Sullivan.
19: Fred Lynn (1974-1980)
Lynn’s Red Sox career was shorter than many fans at the time would’ve liked, but he as an electric presence in center field and at the plate in his time in Boston for those 70s clubs. Koji Uehara and Josh Beckett were runners ups here as well.
20: Kevin Youkilis (2004-2012)
As time goes on, I wonder if we don’t properly appreciate how good Youkilis was. The Greek God of Walks had patience, sure, but he was also a damn good hitter and one of the best in the league with a 148 OPS+ from 2008-2010.
21: Roger Clemens (1984-1996)
The Red Sox are seemingly waiting for Clemens to potentially get inducted to the Hall of Fame before officially retiring 21, but in the meantime they haven’t issued the number since he left in ‘96.
22: Rick Porcello (2015-2019)
Porcello’s career in Boston was obviously a wild ride, but at the end of the day he won a Cy Young (whether or not he should have is a different discussion) and was a key piece on a historic championship roster. Bill Campbell is a runner-up here.
23: Luis Tiant (1971-1978)
Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame, but until they rectify that wrong he’ll have to settle for being the best number 23 in Red Sox history, beating out Oil Can Boyd for the honor.
24: Dwight Evans (1973-1990)
Speaking of players that should be in the Hall of Fame, the Red Sox have two that wear this number, and in this writer’s opinion they should split the retired number honors. Evans gets the nod as the best here due to longevity, but Manny Ramirez was damn good as well.
25: Tony Conigliario (1964-1975)
My childhood dictates that number 25 will always be associated with Troy O’Leary, but Conigliario and the tragic story of his career and what could have been get the nod here fairly easily.
26: Wade Boggs (1982-19992)
Easy call. Retired Number.
27: Carlton Fisk (1971-1980)
Easy call. Retired Number.
28: J.D. Martinez (2018-Present)
Martinez hasn’t been in Boston very long and it’s unclear how much longer he will be — the possibility of a universal DH opens up more trade chances — but he added a new element to that 2018 lineup and has mashed in his two seasons here.
29: Keith Foulke (2004-2006)
Foulke was really only good in one of his three seasons in Boston, but it was totally worth it from the team’s perspective. He was a workhorse in 2004 and his contributions in the ninth were a major reason for that championship run.
30: José Santiago (1966-1969)
Santiago spent five seasons in Boston (four wearing this number) that were mostly middling, but he did have one huge year in 1968 and was a 12-game winner in that 1967 season. Andrew Miller, Sam Horn and Jose Offerman also drew some consideration here.
31: Jon Lester (2006-2014)
There was no doubt about this one, with Lester being part of two championships including a key member of the 2013 squad, and the last true success story from the system on the pitching side.
32: Derek Lowe (1998-2004)
Lowe has always been one of the most interesting Red Sox players of my lifetime to me, as I am always fascinated by pitchers who had success both starting and relieving. Lowe was a big part for different Red Sox teams in each role.
33: Jason Varitek (1999-2011)
Larry Bird will always own this number in Boston, of course, but Varitek was the former captain, an all-time fan favorite and could potentially get the number retired at Fenway as well depending on how lax the organization decides to be with rules.
34: David Ortiz (2003-2016)
Duh. Retired number.
35: Steven Wright (2013-2019)
Wright was certainly never a star in Boston, though he was an All-Star and when healthy was an important piece to the 2018 team.
36: Tom Gordon (1996-1999)
This number was worn by two players on my most underrated player by decade list. I’m giving the nod to Gordon over Tazawa, but I’d listen to arguments the other way as well.
37: Jim Piersall (1953-1958)
Piersall was more known for his glove than his bat and won a couple of Gold Gloves in his career, but he did receive MVP votes three times with Boston. Hideki Okajima gets a shoutout here as well.
38: Curt Schilling (2004-2007)
Schilling’s post-playing days have been an unmitigated disaster and understandably ruined his legacy for many, but in terms of pure play he’s an easy call here.
39: Mike Greenwell (1985-1996)
Greenwell had the misfortunate of playing left field at Fenway, where it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle. He was a great player for a few years, though, including the 1988 season where he finished second in MVP voting.
40: Ken Harrelson (1967-1969)
Harrelson is most known now for his announcing for the White Sox, but he was a solid player as well and had a huge 1968 season for the Red Sox when he finished third in MVP voting.
41: Chris Sale (2017-Present)
It remains to be seen how Sale’s legacy in Boston ultimately ends up as we’ll see how he returns from his surgery, but the peak was undeniably one of the best we’ve ever seen for the team.
42: Mo Vaughn (1991-1998)
Number 42 is retired across the league for Jackie Robinson, with Vaughn being the last to wear it for Boston. He was a beast in the middle of the Red Sox lineup in the 90s and took home the MVP in 1995.
43: Dennis Eckersley (1978-1984, 1998)
Eckersley is obviously more known as an Athletic, but he was fantastic for the Red Sox as well, mostly as a starter, and is now beloved in the NESN booth.
44: Danny Darwin (1991-1994)
Darwin bounced all around the league in his career but had a solid three-year stretch in Boston including a really great 1993 season in which he pitched to a 143 ERA+ in 229 1⁄3 innings.
45: Pedro Martinez (1998-2004)
The best pitcher of all time.
46: Bob Stanley (1977-1989)
This was the number for a couple of very good relievers, with Stanley getting the nod due to longevity. He had some starts for the Red Sox as well, but was best out of the bullpen and received MVP votes three times for Boston. Craig Kimbrel was the other reliever.
47: Bruce Hurst (1980-1988)
Hurst was mostly average during his time with the Red Sox, but he was a big piece on the 1986 pennant-winning team, an All-Star in 1987 and got Cy Young and MVP votes in 1988.
48: Lee Smith (1988-1990)
Smith is a Hall of Famer, though is more known for his time with the Cubs and Cardinals. He had a three-year stretch in the ninth inning for the Red Sox, though, and averaged 28 saves in that time.
49: Tim Wakefield (1995-2011)
Wakefield was on the Red Sox effectively forever, and was always a fan favorite due to the mystical knuckleball. He was also legally the only pitcher allowed to be on the mound if I was in attendance.
50: Mookie Betts (2014-2019)
The most talented Red Sox position player I have ever seen, and I’m still sad about the trade.
51: Daniel Bard (2010-2013)
Bard’s career as an effective major-league pitcher ended much more quickly than it should have, likely thanks at least in part to an attempted transition to the rotation, but for that short stretch he was an absolute delight to watch in relief.
52: Mike Boddicker (1988-1990)
Mike Boddicker spent most of his career in Baltimore with the Orioles and almost won a Cy Young there, but statistically his best years were in Boston as he pitched to a 118 ERA+. He was also a major trade deadline acquisition for the 1988 squad — acquired for Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling — and was a monster down the stretch.
53: Rich Hill (2010-2012)
Hill is still bouncing around in the majors and his comeback as a very good starter began in Boston. He didn’t wear number 53 then, though. He did wear it as a reliever at the start of last decade, however, and was very solid in that role as well.
54: Darnell McDonald (2010-2012)
This is a number that has been passed around by many a role player over the last 30 years or so, and I’m giving McDonald the nod in the crowded group. McDonald was a very, very capable fourth outfielder, which can be an underrated piece of a roster.
55: Joe Hesketh (1990-1994)
Hesketh was a solid pitcher for the Expos early in his career and spent his final five seasons with the Red Sox. The last few years were rough, but he still finished his career in Boston with a 111 ERA+.
56: Joe Kelly (2014-2018)
Kelly was often wildly frustrating and that John Lackey trade from 2014 was terrible and I will never be swayed from that position, but A) there’s not much competition at this number and B) Kelly was a monster in the 2018 postseason plus got in a fight with the Yankees, and he is now an honorary all-time Red Sox.
57: Eduardo Rodriguez (2018-Present)
Rodriguez just recently changed his number, and it has corresponded with his development as a pitcher. That probably has more to do with simply aging into his prime, but we’ll give the credit to the number.
58: Jonathan Papelbon (2005-2011)
Papelbon was and is a strange dude to be sure and his time with the Nationals got ugly, but on the mound he was absolutely a dominant closer and the second best in the game during that stretch in Boston.
59: Tommy Layne (2014-2016)
Layne is not the type of player most will remember as the years go on, but he was better than most probably remember and could have been even better if he was more limited to facing left-handed hitters.
60: Daniel Nava (2010)
Nava only wore this number in 2010, which was not his best with the team, but it was when he hit that grand slam so we’ll allow it.
61: Bronson Arroyo (2003-2005)
Arroyo was a key cog in the Red Sox’s 2004 rotation and as a member of that roster will always be important in this city. Also, one time I went to a Red Claws game and he ended up singing Wonderwall on a stool at center court at halftime. It was kind of weird.
62: Rubby De La Rosa (2013-2014)
De La Rosa was part of the return in the Punto Deal and is remembered as a bust, but he actually was solid in 2014 with a 90 ERA+ in 101 2⁄3 innings.
63: Justin Masterson (2008-2009, 2015)
Masterson was traded away to Cleveland for his prime, but he came up with the Red Sox and was a solid pitcher for a couple of years in a swingman-type role.
64: Will Middlebrooks (2012)
Middlebrooks didn’t end up having the career that many of us wanted him to have, but he came up and was a rare bright spot in the disaster that was the 2012 season.
65: Ryan Weber (2019)
That Weber is in the projected 2020 rotation is less than ideal, but to his credit he was actually pretty solid last year with a 95 ERA+ in 40 2⁄3 innings.
66: Bobby Poyner (2018-2019)
Poyner was very good in 2018 when he got the chance and very not good last season. This was a battle between him and Noe Ramirez in a fight between middling middle relievers.
67: Brandon Workman (2013-2018)
Workman changed his number before last season, which was his best, but this still encompasses some solid work, including in the run to the 2013 championship.
68: Matt Barnes (2014-2017)
Barnes has gotten better basically every year of his career and these years don’t represent the best of Barnes, but there’s also not much competition here.
70: Ryan Brasier (2018-2019)
Brasier was a little disappointing last year to be sure, but he stepped up out of nowhere in 2018 and continued his success throughout the postseason.
71: Austin Maddox (2017)
It’s easy to forget now, but Maddox came up late in 2017 and was fantastic, but unfortunately injuries have prevented him from getting the chance to build upon that success.
72: Josh Taylor (2019)
This was Bogaerts’ number when he first came up in 2013, but I’m giving this to Taylor because A) Bogaerts is already on this list and B) Taylor was really, really good last year and Bogaerts was just okay in 2013, although obviously given his age it was still impressive.
73: Tzu-Wei Lin (2017)
Lin came out of nowhere in the minors in 2017 and surprisingly made his way to the majors as the Red Sox suffered injury after injury on the infield, and he was a really solid utility man for the team.
76: Hector Velázquez (2017-2019)
Velázquez probably wasn’t as good as his numbers might have suggested in 2017 and 2018, but he results are results and in 2018 his value as a swingman was very important over the long season.
77: Pedro Ciriaco (2012)
Another one of those rare bright spots in 2012 was Ciriaco inexplicably destroying the Yankees every chance he got, hitting .415/.436/.566 against New York that year.
Note: The rest of the numbers were only worn by one player.
78: Justin Thomas (2012)
Thomas had seven outings with the Red Sox that year and finished with a 7.71 ERA.
81: Lou Lucier (1943)
Loucier did pitch 74 innings for Boston in ‘43, but was middling with an ERA+ of 86.
82: Johnny Lazor (1943)
Lazor was basically the hitting version of Lucier, finishing with a 71 OPS+ in 232 plate appearances.
83: Eric Gagne (2007)
One of the great disappointments in recent trade history, though it didn’t matter as the Red Sox obviously still won it all.
84: J.T. Snow (2006)
Did you remember J.T. Snow played for the Red Sox? Because I sure didn’t.
85: Che-Hsuan Lin (2012)
He never made it in the majors, but he’s still starring in Taiwan’s baseball league. Also, part of the greatest single-day lineup in team history, which you can find here on October 1.
91: Alfredo Aceves (2011-2013)
Praise be. His 2011 season is still my all-time favorite non-Pedro pitching season.
94: Dalier Hinojosa (2015)
I leave you with a bit of trivia with which you can impress (or, more likely, annoy) your friends. Hinojosa, a player we likely would have forgotten otherwise, has worn the highest number ever for the Red Sox, appearing in just one game in 2015.